One of the first things you’ll notice walking into Celeste (21 Bow St., Union Square, Somerville) is the sky blue floor that gives the restaurant its name. (Celeste is the Spanish word for light blue.) Look around the small space — formerly an acupuncture clinic — some more, and you’ll probably see plenty of servings of ceviche, people sipping pisco cocktails, and the smiling faces of the Celeste team: JuanMa Calderon, Maria Rondeau, Paola Ibarra, and Juan Obando. You might even see Calderon firing up some lomo saltado, a well-known Peruvian beef dish, in the open kitchen.
Celeste, which officially opens to the public on Thursday, March 8, is the evolution of Calderon and Rondeau’s Peruvian pop-up, Kriollo Real, that they ran in their Cambridge home, as previously reported. Calderon is a chef and filmmaker, while Rondeau is an architect and producer.
Rondeau previously told Eater that the restaurant will focus on “home-cooked meals, made with love” — recipes from Calderon’s native Peru, where he learned to cook from his mother and grandmother. But Celeste is meant to be more than a restaurant: “Celeste is envisioned as an open and democratic space, where everyone participates sensorially in how the food is made — through views, color, scents, textures, sounds, and projections, it all works as part of the shared experience,” Rondeau said. The space could play home to a variety of community events, from invited artists to live podcasts.
As such, the welcoming space functions almost as a blank canvas, with plenty of bright white surfaces and just a couple pops of artwork on the walls. The restaurant only spans about 450 square feet, but there’s room for around 24 diners, some seated at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, with others at standard tables along the windows.
On the opening menu (embedded in full below), ceviche is highlighted, as well as several types of causas (spicy potato terrines), locro (a squash, lima bean, potato, and black mint stew), and more. From 9 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, tacos come out to play.
On the beverage side, Ibarra is focusing on serving mezcal- and pisco-based cocktails. Try a Manhattan made with pisco, for example, or a drink that combines mezcal with cucumber, mint, and pineapple juice from Celeste’s next-door neighbor, Juice Union. (In a fun nod to the neighborhood, the house mezcal brand happens to be Mezcal Unión. It’s not local, but the name fits right in.) Ibarra is also serving a few mostly local beers and a solid wine list, including some natural options. Try the sparkling Oyster River Morphos, a pét-nat from Maine, with the ceviche of the day.
Once Celeste opens its doors on Thursday, it’ll be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 11 a.m. to midnight (with a late-night menu starting at 10 p.m.) Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Swing by, eat some alfajores, and forget about the outside world for a bit.