My dearest darling friends Nora & Brian chose Destino on Market at Valencia, for a belated birthday dinner on the 20th. Secrets are indeed hard to keep when dealing with large groups... I had initially thought it was a dinner between Snores, Brian & I, but by Friday night knew that the Capoeiristas had been invited as well. It was a funny little comedy of errors as a couple of people called me and wished me a happy birthday, or mentioned something about "your party on Sunday."
Destino is a great little spot on Market between Valencia & McCoppin. It's a small, longish narrow room with deep burnt-sienna red walls, gilt mirrors and fresh art on the walls. I unfortunately was a little too distracted to do justice to the restaurant with my camera, but I did get pictures of the food! Once again, Brian helped us out by ordering for the table -- Destino is known for its Latin fusion, offering a Mexican-inspired Ceviche here; a Columbian entree there. There were about 12 of us, and so we shared a series of small plates, ordering 2 of each, to split between the tables.
Ceviche: (Marinated Fish Salad) Ahi Tuna: Mexican Style with Avocado, Red Onion, Diced Mango, Achiote oil
Ceviche A la Peruana: Sea Bass, Red Onion, Aji Amarillo, Cilantro & Canchas (giant roasted corn kernels).
Arepas de Queso: Venezuelan Cornmeal Biscuits, filled with Fontina Cheese, Grilled Corn and Tomato Salsa (buttery, chewy, with a very nutty corn flavour.)
We ordered the two kinds of Empanadas offered: Pork Picadillo, Pimiento Stuffed Olives, and Cinammon Mojo; and Shredded Chicken, Queso Fresco, with Aji Huacatay Sauce.
This was my favourite dish, but it was ultra rich with all the butter & cheese: Conchitas a la Parmesana - Broiled Day Boat Scallops Blanketed with Garlic-Butter and Parmesan Cheese. We also ordered some yuca fries (pictured with the chickenplato grande). The sauce from the Conchitas made for yummy fry-dipping afterwards.
Pato del Caribe con Mofongo: Robust Blackened Duck Breast served over sweetened plantain puree, sauteed onions and Aji Amarillo. This unfortunately tasted a little off -- the duck had a startlingly sourish taste that was unexpected. I ate it with the plantain puree (thankfully not all that sweet or plantain-y tasting) and the flavours blended better.
The picture at the top of this post was of the Chile Relleno: poblano pepper filled with ground sirloin, sharp cheddar, chipotle salsa, guacamole & citrus creme fraiche.
Aji de Gallina: rich & creamy shredded Chicken mixed in Hot Pepper Cream Puree, served with Yuca Fries. This dish was not as "hot" as the description implies. Definitely more creamy than spicy, and the yuca fries were sooo terribly good -- something one can't stop eating.
Salmon Marinado en Panela: Caramelized King Salmon with Squash-Goat Cheese Puree, and Sauteed Spinach and Medjool Dates. "En Panela," is, from what I can gather via a quick Internet search, some kind of brown sugar molasses. This was another dish that didn't taste so good to me... I am not necessarily fond of a sweetish seafood dish.
N&B got me a delicous strawberry buttercream white cake, and that was what we had for dessert. The cakeage fee was $2. Finally, I need to plug their exceedingly tasty cocktails -- we were particularly enamoured of their caipirinhas(traditionally made of cachaca -- Brazilian Rum -- lime juice and sugar). They were wonderfully refreshing, more sour than sweet (the way I like my frou-frou drinks). I had 3; Looby had 4; the rest of the table had 4-5 more... Though they ran out of cachaca midway through our dinner, the ones made with vodka were just as tasty.