To be considered a good restaurant, every place needs to nail service, ambiance and, most of all, what they're putting on the plate. But to be truly great, a restaurant ought to have a few things that are harder to achieve: locally sourced ingredients, an inspired list of wines and cocktails, and a chef willing to do things that are downright bold. Ariete, the cozy and buzzy Coconut Grove restaurant with Michael Beltran as its chef, has all of those things.
Let's talk about that last one because few chefs take more risks than Beltran. He puts things on his menu that you see nowhere else and that not only work but become dishes you’ll talk about for years, keeping the photos on your phone for dinner party conversations. The pressed duck might be the best example of this, a dish for two that begins with the server bringing out a 14-day dry-aged bird for inspection. It arrives again later as part of a tableside show where the breast will be seared, served alongside a tangy-tart salad and a roasted calabaza tamal. Then the innards—here’s where it gets weird—get smashed by a hand-turned press, right there next to you, with the liquid that’s produced reduced down into a sauce. Every single table will turn to watch the process, which isn’t only fascinating but also produces a series of duck dishes that are as delicious as they are new to most everyone.
Then there’s the chicken, also for two, a dish that most foodies would scoff at ordering, but yet here it’s a marvel, carved up and then stuffed with truffles; it’s savory and crispy and all the things a great chicken should be.
Few chefs take more risks than Beltran
We could certainly mention a few more entirely novel dishes—the monkfish wellington with smoked eel-shrimp mousse or the much-photographed chicken foie shaped into a sour orange and served on ground cocoa nibs—but we don’t want you to think this place is just about doing wild things. You’ll find salads full of fresh-sourced items that are as pretty as they are vibrant, desserts like the candy cap mushroom flan that you’ll crave long after you leave, and probably something else that’ll make you certain Beltran is a talent.
Yes, at times this menu will challenge you to try something you didn’t think you liked. But is there a thing here that’s not downright great? If so, we’ve yet to order it.