Itching for a South American getaway? Follow the music and blue neon lights to Celeste. The tiny, modern Peruvian spot in Union Square packs more party per square foot than any other restaurant in town.
At the bar facing the open kitchen you’ll feel like a close friend of owners JuanMa Calderón and Maria Rondeau. They might pour you a taste of mezcal mixed with fresh juice, while swaying to the music as they cook Lomo Saltado (a ubiquitous Andean stir-fried beef dish) or spooning out generous servings of fresh ceviche.
The cuisine has deep roots; chef Calderón has adapted recipes passed down from his mother and grandmother, and the food is both satisfying and vibrant. One of the pleasures of Peruvian food is how eclectic traditional dishes are: from cold, colorful potato terrines to creamy chicken stews to sparkling seafood served raw spiked with lime juice.
There is a whole subset of Peruvian cuisine called Chifa, based on Peruvian ingredients melded with Chinese techniques that were brought over by East-Asian immigrants. And Celeste is one of the few local places to sample it. One fine example from the rotating menu is Sudado de Pescado, a local blue cod served Chinese-Peruvian style (How’s that for fusion?), steamed in vegetable broth with a splash of wine.
The 24-seat restaurant is often packed, but don’t let that stop you from popping in for a Pisco sour, Peruvian-style sashimi, or a dulce de leche custard on a whim. It’s the kind of place where “staying for a drink” turns into ordering half of the menu and making a night of it. This is the kind of party where everyone’s invited and no one wants to leave.
Head to celesteunionsquare.com for the latest issue of Radio Celeste—a compilation of the team’s favorite salsa, merengue, and other Latin-American music. Close your eyes and pretend you are sipping a mezcal cocktail at the restaurant.
Don’t see the reservation you want? Sign up with Resy to get notified if the right time slot opens up. And keep in mind that bar seats are reserved for walk-ins.
Not a Pisco Sour person? Ask for a tropical take on a classic, like a Negroni, Manhattan, or Margarita—and expect a little smoke and spice.
Celeste was named a 2019 James Beard semifinalist for Best New Restaurant.