I’ve always thought of DUMBO as home to the scrappier, Millennial set – after all, a lot of startups are based out of there, and it’s also where Dan Humphrey the “poor” kid on Gossip Girl lived. So it took me by surprise to see such a polished and grown-up restaurant like Celestine open up here. When you step into the beautiful space and marvel at the stunning waterfront views, you don’t feel like you’re in Brooklyn at all. Maybe a high-end Los Angeles or Chicago restaurant, because there’s just so much space and there’s sophisticated jazz playing in the background, which is not something you come across all that often in Brooklyn. Celestine was clearly designed with the intent of being an impressive destination restaurant, and it succeeds, drawing guests from beyond the local Brooklyn Millennials judging by the well-heeled couples and families taking their seats on a recent Sunday evening.
The stylish, seasonal plates with a Middle Eastern touch are done very well and warrant the trip out to the Manhattan Bridge overpass. An ideal dinner here would involve a group of friends sharing a variety of mezze small plates, particularly the rich, dense and nutty baked hummus and the cool and creamy housemade yogurt with nuts and dates, which feels like a nice, cold dip in the water after submerging your senses in the velvety brown butter of the hummus. Multiple orders of the delicious house-made flatbread sprinkled with za’atar are necessary to be able to enjoy these spreads to the fullest.
Of the starters, the short rib turkish manti is without a doubt one of Celestine’s standouts. There’s no greater pleasure than biting into these plump, meat-filled dumplings, and coating them in the yogurt sauce and caramelized onions are essential to keeping the flavors well-rounded and balanced. You could also opt for the calabrian fusilli if you’re craving a more traditional plate of pasta, but be aware that the anchovies in the dish are pretty strong and bold. There are probably more superior plates of fusili out there, but this light and zesty version with eggplants and breadcrumbs is still pretty satisfying.
There’s a protein for everyone in the Mains section, but the grilled niman ranch tri-tip is arguably the best. The meat, which we had cooked medium rare, was tender, with a nice bit of sinewy marbling, and came with a salted crust. There was a harissa sauce that you could dip the meat into, but it already tasted so good on its own and any other accompaniments were unnecessary. Vegetarians don’t have to miss out on any of the savory fun with the earthy and hearty mushroom tart.
The desserts are a bit of a mixed bag, not quite living up to the pleasure that the preceding plates brought. If anything, get the sesame creme brulee, or if you get the olive oil cake, the spongey parts are great but avoid the strange raz el hanut ice cream. Better yet, to really end date night in DUMBO on a high note, take a stroll along the water up to the park with the carousel and get a scoop of ice cream from Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
1 John St (between Pearl and Adams St)
Brooklyn, NY 11201