Found on the edge of La Cosecha food hall in Union Market, Destino is a newly rebranded restaurant serving up modern Mexican fare with a nod to classic flavors.
Praised for its energetic ambiance and modern cuisine, Destino, formerly known as Las Gemelas Cocina Mexicana until December 2021, resembles an up-and-coming restaurant that celebrates Mexican culture and reinforces that sense of community among not just those who share Mexican heritage but individuals simply looking for Mexican culture and cuisine. This slice of Mexico is served on a platter in La Cosecha, a culinary market representing a mix of eateries celebrating Latin American culture and conversation within Union Market.
Chef Robert Aikens revamps the menu on a seasonable basis to create traditional Mexican cuisine dishes while incorporating modern Mexican flavors and cuisines, like more plant-forward dishes. Last winter, Aikens switched from serving ceviches, toasts and lighter dishes to heartier, more comforting menu options to warm up his guests with stuffed tamales and glazed pork belly.
To provide customers with a memorable experience, Destino occasionally hosts live mariachi bands that spice up the social environment. This restaurant has already drawn heavy attraction from the public due to the immense creativity of the dishes offered. Without access to a fryer or gas stove, the kitchen staff are encouraged to innovate with the available equipment, like a plancha – a Spanish griddle – induction stoves, and more. And if that isn’t enough, the open bar sells alcohol produced directly in Mexico City and the Baja Peninsula.
Upon entering the La Cosecha food hall, the entire lighting of the Destino is warm yellow, furnished with attention to detail from mellow lamps to vintage mirrors, embracing a soft-toned color palette that remained consistent with the all-white tables, chairs and tableware.
The outside perimeter of the restaurant is lined with tables to seat four to six individuals in the dining room and outside patio. The open bar is located directly in the center of the room surrounded by dining tables.
Unlike neighboring Mexican restaurants, Destino not only offers traditional Mexican menu options, like quesadillas, enchiladas and tamales, but it also creates inventive desserts incorporating chile, ginger, and Oaxacan chocolate. By including traditional flavors of cumin and cilantro while preserving the classic originality of American desserts, Destino’s post-meal indulgences are all excellent options.
Offered on their dessert menu, the four dishes are ancho con chocolate ($12), churro paris-brest ($12), sorbete ($8) and sugar and spice ($11). I ordered the sorbete ($8), which was coated with the rich flavor of sweet milk. The sorbete looked intriguing, described as “deconstructed Oaxacan chocolate,” which lured me in upon first glance. The menu features three flavors, which include almond and cinnamon with coconut in addition to the Oaxacan chocolate. Each dish comes with three scoops, so I opted to mix the tastes with one for each flavor.
When first presented, the dessert was split between three oval-shaped rounds of thick cream that were already in the process of melting. The dark chocolate sorbet had a deep, rich flavor similar to melted brownie batter. It included hints of roasted cacao that produced a bitter, caffeinated taste followed by the slightly spicy zest of sweet chile. Both flavors combined create a nutty, earthy blend that pulled away from the richness of the chocolate itself. The dish would have been completed with flakes of chocolate pieces to add textural contrast.
The almond sorbete was soft and buttery, highlighting the roast of the nut. It smelled similar to the syrupy sweetness of almonds in Amaretto as hints of maple were detectable within the delectable mush. Crunchy flakes of almonds broke up the velvety flavor, and the almondy shavings of goodness introduced a more savory flavor profile.
Although the coconut flavor was a bit overpowering in the cinnamon and coconut-flavored sorbete, the tropical ambiance and creamy texture of the dish proved to be a redeeming feature. Flecks of cinnamon dotted the dish, which interrupted the fruity, milky palate of the coconut. Hints of melted butter and brown sugar combined to make this flavor my favorite.
The sorbete intertwined classic Mexican flavors of chile and Oaxacan chocolate in a modern form of sorbete, an intriguing and delicious touch. Unlike other restaurants, Destino prides itself on a mix of traditional and modern flavors, displayed especially through the savory and sweet profiles of the dessert items. If you are interested in embarking on a quick but exciting adventure away from campus, be sure to make a pit stop at Destino when visiting Union Market.
This article appeared in the February 2, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.