There they sit. Four jars of condiments aligned in order of viciousness.
- Tomato, onion & coriander salsa - Safe on the palate, no chilli at all, flavoursome and cooling.
- Pineapple salsa - Initially sweet but the flecks of bonnet pepper slowly creep up and lightly pierce your tongue.
- Jalapeño salsa - Not hot at first but before long the chilli grabs your tongue and gives it a tight bear hug.
- Fire water - A quintuplet of chillies in vinegar. The juice alone will hack its way down your throat, much like swallowing barbed wire.
Here we are on Bondi Road on a wet Sunday, rubbing shoulders with folk that look like they've stepped out of a G-Star Raw catalogue. No pretense, just effortlessly too cool for school. Mum's and dad's drop in for take-away lattés and cyclists perch up at the counter for a quick bite and hit of caffeine. Welcome to Panama House, new play-thing from the guys behind The Corner House and The Shop, all of which can be found in the 2026 postcode. Reflecting their travels, owners Brent Mills & Anthony Kaplan took culinary elements from Mexico, South and Central America as well as the deep south of the US. That's the food sorted. The venue is perfectly fitted for what this place is all about. Great food with your mates up at the bar or at a table, wines and beers sourced locally and internationally plus a bunch of cocktails. As for the coffee, well, that barista really knows his shit.
More mouths means more food so the four of us pluck what we want from the menu and await the edibles. The hanger burger (19) is decent in size, has a moist meat patty deliciously drenched in grilled Swiss cheese with house pickles and rough-cut chips on the side. Two pieces of spatchcock make up the Southern fried chicken (19); supremely moist, loaded with flavour and a crust so crunchy it's sinful. A good splodge of gumbo sauce moistens things up further, a crumbed spear of okra joins the party and soft golden corn bread round it all up beautifully. This was one killer dish.
Taken from the breakfast menu is the fried black pudding (18) with wedges of sautéed green apple. Anyone that's partial to this glorious spiced blood sausage will love it here at Panama House. There's just so much of it. An oozing poached egg, baked tomato and fried sourdough also come with.
Taking a lighter route, the Panama house salad (16) consists of leaves, carrot, cucumber, cabbage, shards of crisp tortilla, lime, pickled herbs and your choice of blackened hanger steak, jerk chicken, tequila-spiced gravlax salmon or avocado & baked basil tomato. Great to see a come-back of food piled mountain high, just as we did in the mid-90's. I went with the jerk chicken and as much as I liked its juiciness, it just didn't have the kick I'd expect from a good jerk. It was quickly remedied with a teaspoon of jalapeño salsa so the chilli crisis was averted.
I couldn't help but order a side of truffled mac n cheese (8.5) ; a sure-fire winner for truffle fans anywhere. Great stuff. Finally, the dish that almost tipped me off the edge was the sensational banoffee brûlée (12). Perfectly thick caramel custard topped with torched slices of banana. Not that it needed it, a mountain of whipped cream mixed with crushed Oreo's balanced out the dessert plate. Bloody hell, we need to walk back up to the Junction to burn some of this off. Note to self: next time get to Panama House after 1pm to try the Po Boys and tacos.Panama House251 Bondi RoadBondi 202602 9365 0839Open 7 days: 7am-latewebsite heneedsfood & co dined courtesy of Panama House & FOLKE