James Schenk came back from Madrid with a mission. Inspired by his regular visits to a homey, inviting café, the chef decided to create a bistro-style restaurant that captured the heart of the Old World but featured a modern menu. Destino bridges this gap, tempting diners with a selection of traditional Mexican, Central-, and South-American comfort foods, which Schenk refines by incorporating contemporary techniques. Even with this relatively wide focus, Time Out San Francisco praised the menu's consistency, claiming that, "From seafood to meat, it all works well and is always unique." A ceviche of australian butterfish, baby calamari, tiger prawns, and aji amarillo chilies embraces traditional Peruvian flavors. Meanwhile, citrus crème fraiche atop the chile relleno demonstrates Schenk's modern inclinations. The intimate dining room definitely skews toward the classic as opposed to the contemporary. The vibrantly colored walls range from pumpkin orange to sunflower yellow, almost blending in with the brightly colored and occasionally abstract artwork. Wall sconces and a solitary chandelier help illuminate the long, narrow room and create an ambiance that Gayot hailed as, "exotic and cozy."
The Name: Pisco is a Peruvian grape brandy, popularized in San Francisco for its use in sweet punches.
The Chef: James Schenk’s mother is originally from Peru, and he draws on that culture to create menus at Pisco Latin Lounge and Destino, the larger restaurant next door.
Awards and Accolades
Churrascaria: Brazilian-style barbecuing where the meat is skewered and cooked over an open flame or on a grill; the meat itself is called churrasco.
Gomme syrup: a simple-syrup-like mixture of sugar, water, and gum arabic, commonly used as a sweetener in mixed drinks.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Browse mid-century furnishings, collectibles, and apparel at Stuff (150 Valencia Street).
After: Belt out tunes at The Mint karaoke lounge (1942 Market Street).