South Floridians are no strangers to hurricane preparedness. If you haven’t been following the powerful path taken by Coconut Grove’s chef Michael Beltran, you need to start paying attention; this perfect storm is here to stay.
After years of working and learning alongside many notable Miami legends, cue chefs Norman Van Aken and Michael Schwartz, Beltran finally opened his first restaurant in 2016. The road, hurdled with rising tides and gusty winds, proved challenging, to say the least. Finding Ariete‘s stable groove took several years. Setbacks, including the more recent pandemic ones, took a toll and solidified his passion and determination. The one thing that never quite changed was his tunnel vision and tenacity.
Inside Ariete, dimly lit interiors give off a moody, speakeasy vibe. The open kitchen, visible from every indoor seat, allows the guests to watch as the service firestorm ignites: guaranteed nonstop action. The playlist, complete with artists of prohibition-era blues, and classics like Benny Moré, Celia Cruz, and Cheo Feliciano, prompts midbite swaying and occasional instinctual foot tapping. OK, maybe that’s just me.
Choosing what to order from the ever-changing menu is never easy. Not only is every dish obsessively conceptualized and executed, but each gives way to new taste profiles. Often, this means showcasing the feisty Cuban side of Miami: Menu OG velvety Foie Gras atop perfectly ripened platanitos maduros (pero, now en pavé form, and with a sour orange temptation caramel), comforting yet lavish Tamal en Cazuela (pero con sea urchin), rich and buttery Whole Roasted Chicken with plantain polenta (and a surprise stuffed chicken wing inside). Cuban-American chef Michael Beltran has successfully captured the almost impossible-to-achieve art of beloved abuelita-inspired soul food created with an impactful, ambitious hand: Spanglish fine dining and beyond.
However, about a year pre-pandemic was when Ariete truly began expanding its menu and offering more to its diners. Cheese and charcuterie? Got it. Caviar service? Got that too. A cart (“carrito”) for Miami’s sole unforgettable tableside Rohan Duck Press (14-day, dry-aged duck breast, pistachio dukkah, duck tamale, wild mushroom gravy, pastelitos of duck fricassée, green salad)? You bet. A Guest List dinner series began, where local chefs popped in to collaborate for the night. Notably, the first Ariete Tasting Menu rollout, an all Vegetable Dinner Series, emerged as well. Weeks before life as we knew it stopped for the world, Miami’s dining scene was unstoppable. Beltran and many other of our city’s hardest-working elites were nominated for the James Beard Awards in the Best Chef: South 2020 category. By the time Covid hit, the pivot game had become crucial and very real for the industry; that nomination honor seemed lackluster in comparison.
After hustling hard during the state-mandated quarantine, Miami restaurants eventually reopened and were left to examine the perilous aftermath. Naturally, Beltran’s answer was to finally slow down, take a deep breath, gather his thoughts, and approach with caution. Ha! Kidding. He decided instead to bring back his Tasting Menu Dinner Series nights even with limited seating capacity laws, and county curfews. This time, he kicked off with an ode to Cuban poet Jose Martí and titled his tasting menu, Versos Sencillos. The food —experimental, elegant, and creative— showed off the continued evolution of a chef refusing to conform to any rules, and admirably competing only with himself, in a world of cook-for-IG-likes-and-fame. Today, Versos Sencillos continues rotating seasonally, and a new Versos Diarios sits royally as an option on the main menu.
The Ariete Hospitality Group — Nave, Chug’s Cuban Diner, The Scapegoat, The Taurus, and several upcoming projects like Brasserie Laurel and Scoop Records — has strategically positioned itself at the top of our homegrown culinary scene. It’s important to note that, despite continued growth, they continue to embrace their guests humbly with warm hospitality and a close eye for details and preferences.
What is next? The tide has changed and time will tell, but the forecast now screams this storm will strike and reach maximum intensity. For once, you should allow yourself to get caught in its Category 5 whirlwind.
Additional BITS and TIPS
What I Order:
If it’s not yet obvious by this article above and the photo galleries below, I have lost count of the many times I have visited Ariete through the years. When I name it one of my “tried and true” spots, I mean it. I usually start with the Foie Gras. It’s the bite that caught my attention during my very first visit, and I have never lost interest. The only reason I would not order the foie, would be to go for the new Florida Orange. Debuting during one of the dinner series, it quickly became a signature dish and permanent menu item (chicken foie mousse, duck, and sour orange pate). The Pastrami Style Short Rib has sat on my Top Bites list for years. The accompanying Shaved Vegetable Caesar makes a flawless side. There is enough dressing to cover every bite and I enjoy the temperature mix between the two. There is no need to add anything else, but did I really visit Ariete if I didn’t order a side of the Creamed Yucca? Oye, this is next level. I often even take one to go for my kids the next day. #truestory To finish, the Candy Cap Mushroom Flan (sambuca crema, and Bustelo crumble) is a no-brainer. I’m not easy to please when it comes to flan, but this one is a winner. Because clearly, I’m a comelona, I tend to add one more dessert out of the rotating ones genius pastry chef, Devin Braddock, lists on the menu. Honestly, you just can’t go wrong with any of them.
Valet is available weekend nights. Street parking is also an option.
Strongly suggested. Reserve HERE
Want more Ariete (and Miami dining scene) scoop? Listen to PAN CON PODCAST, hosted by “8th-grade basketball MVP,” chef Michael Beltran and co-host Nicolas Jimenez. Occasional appearances by Peaty, the dog. Soon to be on Only Fans.
ARIETE PHOTO GALLERIES
3540 Main Hwy
Coconut Grove, FL 33133