Sunday, March 1, 2015


There are many places in Chicago where you can get a good cocktail.  Many are lounges, but there are several that are restaurants that serve good food.  Among those is Celeste, which I visited for Chicago Restaurant Week This year.  Located in a high traffic area in River North, it isn't exactly obvious.  It is located across the street from Epic and Slurping Turtle.  There is a small sign in the window by the entrance, but in the wintertime, the door is covered by a shelter which also blocks the sign.  The restaurant has three floors with three different drink menus.  The food menu is served on the the first two floors.  On the first floor is the bar, where is served beer, wine, and classic cocktails.  The second floor, where we were seated, was called The Deco Room, has an Art Deco design which aims for a 1920's era Supper Club with an extensive cocktail list.  The third floor is the rooftop bar (which is open seasonally) and serves beer, wine, punches, and different cocktails than those served in the bar or deco room.  I started my evening there with a classic cocktail called The Last Word which is a Prohibition era cocktail invented at The Detroit Athletic Club which includes Gin, Marashino Liqueur, Green Chartreuse, and Lime Juice.  It is shaken in ice and then filtered and served straight up.  The drink was very good.  It was sweet, sour and pungent and served as a very good palate cleanser (which admittedly, wasn't really necessary at the beginning of the meal, but was nice as the meal continued).
We were at Celeste for Chicago Restaurant Week so we were going to be choosing from a Prix Fixe menu for our Appetizer, Entree, and Dessert, but we decided to amend our menus with a couple of additional courses to share.  We started with a Charcuterie Plate which was pretty good.  There were three meats served, and while I can guess pretty closely what they were, they were not listed on the menu.  There was a dried ham like a Prosciutto, a lean and thinly sliced meat like a Bresaola, and a hard sausage like a Soppressata.  It was served with some Country Mustard and some hard bread.
For my appetizer, I had Grilled Baby Octopus with Romesco sauce, Crispy Chickpeas, Shaved Radish, Blood Orange, and Cilantro.  This was a very good dish with a wide variety of textures and flavors.  The Romesco Sauce was tangy and spicy, the octopus was meaty with a nice grilled flavor, the radishes were very fresh and crisp even as they were thinly sliced, the chickpeas had a Corn Nut crunch, and the blood oranges provided a sweet finish.
We then received our second extra dish, Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Miso Sauce.  The brussels sprouts were caramelized, which brought out the sweetness and the miso sauce added some savoriness to the dish.  The sprouts were tender and good and while caramelized, still had a little cabbage funk.
My entree had more brussels sprouts, but they were prepared differently, and it wasn't a major part.  It was a Saffron Fettucine with a Vegetarian Ragu, which included more Brussels Sprouts, Pine Nuts, and was topped with Chives and Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.  This was a very good dish with a lot of flavor and it was one of those vegetarian dishes that is so flavorful that you don't really notice that there is no meat.
Dessert was essentially a deconstructed candy bar.  It was Arguani Dark Chocolate Ganache with Salted Caramel, Orange Crumble, and a Coconut Nib Tuile.  It was sweet, salty, bitter with a few different textures.  It was very good and if I thought I could lick the plate I might have. 

Dinner was very good with good service in a nice space.  While the food is very good and I would come back for dinner here, the stars of the show are the cocktails, and I will definitely have to return to explore more of them.


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