Week 2 of post-quarantine dining did not disappoint. It’s true, the fate of the restaurant industry as a whole, amidst the coronavirus era, remains to be determined. Pero also, those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt those doing it, and doing it well. Enter Stubborn Seed and Ariete. Jaw-dropping opening weekend.
Instead of simplified versions of their pre-quarantine menus (as they ease into the new routine), both restaurants charged full-steam ahead. All aboard!
If you were looking for a sign on when to take the plunge and venture back out…this is it.
Boasting repeat appearances on my Top Miami Restaurants list since 2017, South Beach superstar Stubborn Seed by chef Jeremy Ford shows no signs of slowing down. With extremely limited outside dining and an already small space inside, I wondered how it would fare at 50% capacity. The answer: just fine, thank you very much. The center tables of the dining room have been removed, leaving the perimeter tables in place, and a couple of scattered high-tops bar side too. Every single one remained full the entire time I was there. As expected, hand sanitizer stations were available throughout, tables wiped down immediately as guests left, and everyone on staff wore masks and gloves. The menu is available as a QR code or paper version, upon request.
What I didn’t expect was for the kitchen to be firing on all cylinders. During a regular visit? Yes. A few days after reopening the kitchen and debuting a brand new multi-course tasting menu? For multiple tables. No. What? How? And why is it impressive?
Each course demands special attention to detail from its creative beginning to its arduous tweezer-friendly end. The exhausting process of expediting the simultaneous dishes so that dinner flows just right has never been child’s play, and all hands were visibly on deck!
Guests don’t have to choose the tasting menu route, although I highly recommend it if it’s your first visit. You can still create your very own outstanding experience off the a la carte menu.
What I tried:
If you haven’t been following the powerful evolution of Coconut Grove’s Ariete by chef Michael Beltran, you need to start paying attention.
The restaurant, quaint with various available seating options (breezy outside front and back, main dining room, small bar lounge, and a secret wine cellar basement), continues to define itself with every step of the way. The interiors are dimly lit and moody, giving off a speakeasy-ish vibe I crave. I obsess over their playlist too, complete with artists of a prohibition-era blues but also Benny Moré, Celia Cruz, and Cheo Feliciano.
As with all South Florida restaurants, masks are to be worn while moving anywhere within the space, and remain off while seated. Clear markings now appear near the bathroom as a reminder to distance while waiting. Using every available inch inside and out, while following regulations, tables were spaced out as required. And even at half capacity, the same ole energetic feel of a not-so-distant-past (pre-covid) reappeared.
Choosing what to order from the new menu is never easy. Not only is every dish beautifully conceptualized and executed, but each gives way to new taste profiles. It’s tough to beat the original Ariete course I first fell in love with back in 2016: the foie gras and maduros. It even continues to star on my annual Top Bites list. But the new additions have been taken to a whole new level of “What is happening?” I mean, when was the last time you had crema de malanga con black truffles? Exactly. Beltran has successfully captured the almost impossible-to-achieve art of beloved abuela-inspired soul food created with an elevated masterful hand: Spanglish fine dining and beyond.
His laser-focus approach to be and do more despite closures, restrictions, curfews, and bumps on the road inspires me as a diner. So proud to have and support this business in South Florida.
What I Tried: