Critic’s Special: Last days of Cincinnati’s famous Celestial Steakhouse

Growing up in Cincinnati, you always knew the top-class places to eat. And nowhere was as wonderful as the Celestial Steakhouse.

Tucked away in Mount Adams, this was always the beautiful and luxury place to come for a big evening out, with a view of the skyline to die for. Grabbing a seat by the window before an enormous chandelier, you’re struck with the kind of old-fashioned steakhouse feeling that just comes from a place that has been around a bit.

The Celestial is closing its doors this month after so many years feeding Cincinnati’s finest, destined to become an event venue. I confess in the last days of this beauty that those hardwood walls to feel a little bit like they’re ready for an update of some kind, but make no mistake, the dates walls are still adorned with a constellation of dozens of AAA four-diamond awards, a testament to the high regard the dining scene has had for the Celestial.

One last steak dinner here.

An amuse bouche, the crab cakes offer a soft lump crab meat with a slightly warm chipotle-like sauce on top. For another taste of that great seafood, the seared scallops were also a treat. Delicate enough to melt in your mouth but cooked just to the place that they’re still springy. The freshness of the seafood is what makes the difference.

For a good high-key experience, the steaks are always what people have loved here, so a try for that New York Strip. It’s a behemoth at 14 ounces, but it’s all in how the steak is cooked! I called for a medium rare cook and was rewarded with a firm black on the edges with a bright pink middle; one slice and the wonderful juices seep out. This steak is simply seasoned and the meat speaks entirely for itself. Perfect cook. Flawless look. Never disappoints.

Salmon too, is a wonderful choice, it flakes just a bit at the strike of the fork but the heavy seasoning on top punctuates the entire fillet, with some sauteed spinach adding a new texture and a bit.

And, for the grand finale, a New York-style cheesecake. The real stuff is easy to spot, because it uses thicker, less creamy mascarpone cheese and don’t overwhelm with the sweetness. No, the thick crust instead offers the flavor here, with a soft crunch all too uncommon.

I fear the steakhouse like this is a dying breed. One can argue that tastes evolve, and clearly, there’s a market for these wonderful, experimental chefs who have come to Cincinnati with great creative cocktails and desserts. But the heart and soul of a steakhouse like this one, expensive as it may be, is that it’s a place that picks relatively simple, high-quality ingredients and lets them speak for themselves.

Au revoir, Celestial. It’s been a beautiful ride.

The Celestial Steakhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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