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Aurora at the Celeste

Written By Scott Joseph On December 7, 2023

Aurora sign

When Aurora at the Celeste opened three years ago, it brought a new level of sophisticated dining, at least in terms of the food, to East Orlando. That was thanks in no small part to Mike Trudnak, the UCF-located hotel’s opening executive chef. 

But Trudnak parted ways with the Celeste in April, moving to the Daytona Grande – and taking some of his Orlando staff with him. I figured that would be the end to what Trudnak himself referred to as “that Aurora magic.”

But the Celeste management demonstrated its commitment to continue offering high quality food by hiring Ibis Lopez to fill the executive chef vacancy. Lopez, who has cooked at the likes of Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, has put his imprint on the restaurant and has made the menu his own.

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Aurora at the Celeste croquettes

My dining companion and I started with the Brisket Potato Croquettes, crispy orbs filled with creamy mashed potatoes and mouth-filling meat, each one sitting in a ploof of peppery romesco and topped with micro greens. Two slightly blistered shishito peppers kept the croquettes from commingling. It was a pleasing presentation and a delicious starter.

Aurora at the Celeste ragu

I chose for my entree the Short Rib Ragu, which featured meat braised into tender submission in a beef and wine jus, tossed with mushrooms, peas and ricotta, all coating thick ribbons of pappardelle. It was quite filling.

Aurora at the Celeste pompano

My friend chose the Florida Pompano, grilled and served atop pureed corn with fresh corn kernels, and topped with yellow tomato succotash and a splotch of black lime beurre blanc. It’s always a question when fish is served with the skin whether it’s meant to be eaten or left on the plate. Don’t leave this skin, it’s one of the best things about the dish, delectably crispy, like a fish wafer, a nice complement to the moist meat beneath it.

Service, though not exactly polished, was sincere, and I appreciated the presence of management in the dining room.

That dining room is one of the few detractions. Try as it might to be more than an upscale coffee shop it doesn’t quite rise above that. (The same space is used for the hotel’s breakfast service.) There are tailored booth backs, the fabric matching the deep-sea blue of the walls, and eclectic pendant lights throughout. But aluminum-frame floor-to-ceiling windows give the room an industrial mien. 

But if you just focus your attention on the artistically plated and well crafted food, you’ll forget the surroundings and be swept up in that Aurora magic.

Aurora at the Celeste is at 4105 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando (map). The restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner daily and lunch Monday through Friday. The phone number is 629-205-0101.

We hope you find our reviews and news articles useful and entertaining. It has always been our goal to assist you in making informed decisions when spending your dining dollars. If we’ve helped you in any way, please consider making a contribution to help us continue our journalism. Thank you.

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Sue Bigsby
Sue Bigsby
2 months ago

It would be very helpful to have prices with reviews. Also to know other items on the menu (and prices) … OR is it one of those places that if you have to ask, you can’t afford it?

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