It feels like I have been on a stretch of Asian restaurants lately, and I have been itching to try some other cuisines. So when Mr. and Mrs. CAsper called and said they would be up in the city, I suggested checking out this “nuevo latino bistro” called Destino. Yelp supposedly says it is located in Hayes Valley, but it feels more like the Castro or the Mission. Either way, I very rarely head over to this part of town, so I was looking forward to exploring something new. The restaurant is right on a somewhat busy stretch of Market St and is a pretty casual place serving a menu filled with various dishes from across Latin America, all with a slightly modern twist.
The Ceviche a la Peruana was made with red snapper, aji amarillo and topped with sweet potato chips. There were also these crunchy corn nut-like bits called canchas in the ceviche. Overall, it was quite solid as far as ceviches go. With its characteristic mix of citrus marinaded fish, onions and peppers, I felt like all the flavors were quite balanced.
The Plantain chips came with a Serrano cilantro salsa on the side. I thought they were a little too hard on the teeth, but I thought they went well with the ceviche. In fact they held up to the juiciness of the ceviche much better than the sweet potato chips that actually came with ceviche.
I was surprisingly pleased with the complete lack of gamey flavor in the skewers of grilled lamb. Not only was the meat very delicious, but it was equally tender and very well-cooked. The bed of heirloom tomatoes and quinoa balanced out the dish quite nicely.
Having never tasted an arepas de queso before, I really didn’t know what to expect. Originating from Venezuela, these are cornmeal biscuits filled with fontina cheese, and in this case, it was topped with ropa vieja which is Cuban pulled pork shoulder meat. The biscuits weren’t as cheesy as you would expect, and although it was a little bit oily, I thought the doughy-ness of the biscuit served as a nice sponge for the succulent and flavorful ropa vieja. It was absolutely delicious.
The Yuca Fries were a little too dense for my liking, and the mint mojo that came with it didn’t have enough flavor to counter the starchiness. Maybe a thicker sauce would have been better, but overall, I really wasn’t too impressed.
I had dreams of a meaty Brazilian BBQ feast when I suggested that Pdho order this dish. There was definitely quite a variety including an Angus bavette, housemade pork chorizo and a roasted pork belly, but it wasn’t as overwhelming as what you would normally get at a churasscaria. All the meat was good, but nothing that really blew my mind. I think the pork belly was probably the best, but then again, it’s pork belly.
I have been in search of Lomo Saltado at every Peruvian restaurant I’ve been to, mainly because it reminds me of one of my favorite dishes that my Mom used to make as a kid. It is essentially beef stir-fried with potatoes, tomatoes, onions and served with rice. Although I keep hoping that the Peruvian version would be as tasty as my Mom’s version, it has yet to really hit the mark. This was definitely the best of the few I’ve tasted so far. The beef tasted decent, but it could have spent a little less time on the pan.
Pdho didn’t think too much of these chocolate-flavored donuts, but I rather enjoyed the Bunuelos. They were moist on the inside and coated with cinnamon and sugar on the outside, but they didn’t taste too sweet. The vanilla creme anglaise was not too rich, but it added a nice bit of sweetness to the dessert.
All in all, I was pretty happy with most of the meal. The Arepas de Queso and Brochettas de Corderos were definitely the most memorable dishes of the dinner, but many of the other dishes like the Ceviche a la Peruana, Lomo Saltado and Churrasqueria Platter were still pretty solid. With my BBE code, the meal was an even better deal and I think we all left feeling full and satisfied.
1815 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94103
PAFO Ratings for Destino:
Ambiance 2½ stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars