On Road 14, right in front of the Walmart Supercenter, you will find a small nondescript wooden house, inside is one of my favorite restaurants in Ponce: El Negocio de Panchi. Low key, cozy and unpretentious (10 tables or less), the restaurant offers a limited yet varied international menu infused with local flair. They also offer off-menu appetizers and main courses; so don’t forget to ask your server about them.
After reviewing the appetizer options, we decided to go off-menu and order the Foie Gras with Orange Marmalade (many local foodies rave that El Negocio de Panchi has one of the best foie gras in Puerto Rico) and the Sweet and Sour Seared Tuna with Ginger Crust and Tamarind.
I was pleasantly surprised when the generous portion of Foie Gras arrived at our table. Most restaurants give you only two to three bites worth of this controversial dish. All I can tell you is that the local foodies were correct. It was decadent. The combination of the sweet and tangy orange marmalade complemented the crisp and creamy Foie Gras beautifully.
The Seared Tuna, however, was my favorite appetizer hands down. Not only was it beautifully presented but the tuna was extremely fresh. I am not a big fan of sweet and sour sauces, however, this rich sauce had more of a sweet and spicy feel. It was simply delicious!
For my main course, I went with the 8oz Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce and White Bean Mamposteao Rice (Filete de Res 8oz con Salsa de Setas y Mamposteao de Habichuelas Blancas). The Filet Mignon was tastefully seasoned and perfectly cooked (medium-rare for me of course). The luscious mushroom sauce with hints of wine complemented the dish beautifully. The Mamposteao was amazing! Mamposteao Rice is one of those staple must try Puerto Rican dishes. In a nutshell, it consists of beans (typically red beans) mixed up with white rice and other goodies like sofrito and amarillos (ripe plantains) among others.
Fernando ordered the Lamb Shank with Mix Root Mash (Chuletón de Cordero con Majado de Viandas), which I had a chance to try as well. The slowly simmered Lamb Shank was tender and full of delicate flavors. The pieces of meat just slid of the bone. The Mix Root Mash was lovely. It was smooth but had a bit of texture as well.
Eventhough we were full, a visit to El Negocio de Panchi is never complete if we do not order the Blueberry Crepes. It is simply a must. Even though I am not a fan of blueberry, this dessert has me hooked!
The price for the food is moderately high, but worth every penny. Attention to detail is put into every dish and the food is prepared with fresh ingredients from local farms. They also offer a decent wine selection. Insider Tip: You can bring your own wine and be charged the corkage fee. The thing I love most about this place is that Chef Francisco “Panchi” Zayas, owner and executive chef, took the time to stop by our table and ask us about our meal to ensure quality. While we were there, he made a point out of visiting every table and greeting his customers.
El Negocio de Panchi only opens for dinner, however, brunch is available every third Sunday of the month. Reservations are a must for brunch or dinner since this place is always full. Disclaimer: the staff told us that the restaurant would be closed for vacations from September 20, 2013 through October 7, 2013.