Where to Celeste in Union Square.
What for Groovy Peruvian from chef JuanMa Calderon in a pared-down white room with an open kitchen and a busy little bar. Before opening Celeste, Calderon and partner Maria Rondeau ran Peruvian supper club Kriollo Real out of their Cambridge home.
The scene Bright white walls, neon blue signage, a soccer match (Peru versus Iceland) playing on mute, and customers chatting vivaciously in Spanish. A cheerful waiter moves from table to table, explaining dishes. A few couples feast at the bar, balancing forks with iPhones. The room is small, loud, and happy. “This reminds me of a restaurant in Barcelona,” says my dining companion. She’s right.
What you’re eating Ceviche, paper-thin tuna sashimi, spicy potato terrine with tuna salad or shrimp, big plates of tenderloin beef stir-fried with tomato and onion, lamb stew swirled with cilantro and canary beans, simple steamed blue cod, and boiled potatoes covered with creamy huancaina sauce, made with ají amarillo, a mild, slightly fruity yellow chili pepper that forms the base of many Peruvian dishes. Pop in for $4 creamy chicken tacos between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. or after 10 p.m.
Care for a drink? “Our bartender is from Lima!” declares our jolly server, so it’s pisco sours (very sour) all around. There are also margaritas, mezcal shots, and carajillo espressos mixed up at a loud little bar that faces the kitchen. Non-drinkers might try a can of golden Inca Kola, which tastes like a carbonated, liquid popsicle.
Overheard Tales of high school, desserts, and intuition. “I was in theater. I wore a leotard in front of my whole high school!” a woman tells her dining companions, going on to recount a party for a long-lost pal in her old hometown. “A lot of them live in the same neighborhood and might make out with one another’s spouses,” she says. A group gets up to leave, but a waiter intercepts them. “Next time, you must stay for dessert,” he smiles. A snuggly couple speak Spanish to one another. “Chicken and rice,” he says to her, in English. “You read my mind.”
21 Bow St., Somerville, 617-616-5319, www.celesteunionsquare.comKara Baskin can be reached at email@example.com.