Opening earlier this year in the former Swirl Wine Bar space in the River North neighborhood of Chicago is Celeste, an art deco-inspired bar and restaurant standing three stories with a gorgeous rooftop deck. The first floor focuses on cocktails, along with a small, yet affordable, lineup of draft and bottled beer selections, as well as approachable wines, and a large, dark bar sits in the center of the room. The second floor is evocative of a 1920’s lounge and supper club with chandeliers, warm tones, and comfortable seating.
Celeste also boasts a gorgeous rooftop patio dubbed “The Garden” which is a sophisticated and relaxed space, offering vintage punch bowls and Victorian-style seating arrangements. Unfortunately, we will need to wait until next Spring to enjoy this rooftop oasis again, but it will be worth the wait.
I recently dined in Celeste’s second floor “Deco Room” with a group of friends, and we had a wonderful experience. The menu offerings are nicely curated, and are designed to complement the drink menu. I appreciated that seasonal and locally sourced ingredients are highlighted. The menu is broken down into four categories: Bites to Share, Small Plates, Large Plates, and Sides. A prix fixe option is available as well, and is nicely priced at $45 for a small plate, large plate and dessert. Wine pairings are an additional $22. Not many of the menu items are purely vegetarian, but the kitchen is more than accommodating and can alter menu items for specific dietary restrictions, allergies, and intolerances.
We started with a selection of three Small Plates, plus one item from the Bites to Share section of the menu. While the grilled baby octopus, with romesco, crispy chickpeas, shaved radish, and orange segments, was beautifully presented and had wonderful flavors, the octopus itself was a little overcooked and chewy. However, this was the only misstep of the meal.
We then tried the crispy pickled cauliflower, lightly fried and served with a tuna aioli and chili relish. The tuna aioli was served on the side to accommodate the vegetarian at the table, and it was not missed due to the nice flavors of the cauliflower, itself. It was a unique and interesting preparation and we all thought it was great.
The Anson Mills farro & burrata salad, with smoked grapes, Marcona almonds, endive, and cider vinaigrette, was even more delicious. The burrata was perfectly creamy, with a hint of sea salt and pepper, along with a drizzle of olive oil. The nuttiness of the farro, along with the sweetness of the grapes, were the perfect complement. I highly recommend this dish.
We also enjoyed the Kennebec potato chips, with cheddar dust, and malt vinegar. I am a purist and would probably like these chips sans cheddar, but they were still delicious, especially with the acidity of the malt vinegar.
We then shared three Large Plates. My favorite was the roasted cobia, with melted leeks, sunchokes, potato espuma, and lobster sauce. The cobia was perfectly cooked and had fantastic flavor. It held up nicely to the lobster sauce, which lent a little sustenance to the otherwise light dish. I am still thinking about this dish and hope it remains on the menu until my next visit.
The saffron fettuccine, prepared vegetarian for us, with Fresno chili, garlic, and heirloom cherry tomato, which a much lighter dish than I anticipated, with bright, fresh flavors, and a nice acidity. It was a nice complement to the cobia, and was also visually a beautifully presented dish.
The pan seared diver scallops were also a winner. Served with braised fennel, uni sauce, grilled Tropea onion, and fine herbs, the scallops were nicely sized and perfectly cooked, with a lovely carmelization on each side.
To end our fantastic meal, we selected the cheese plate, with three cheeses, almonds, honey, and a raspberry jam, as well as a phenomenal shortcake, with a berry compote and refreshing gelato.
Our entire meal at Celeste was exquisite, from the food, to the drinks, to the ambiance, and the service. Celeste is a perfect place for a date, for a dinner with friends, or for drinks at the bar, or on the rooftop in warmer months. Celeste does take reservations, and is open for dinner and drinks Tuesday through Saturday.
111 West Hubbard Street, Chicago, Illinois