Prism Tastes: Music and Food are One at Ariete
June 15, 2016
Consensus: The intimate and thoughtful ambiance, the friendly staff, and elevated cuisine make Ariete one of the most seductive and memorable eateries in Miami’s historic Coconut Grove.
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When you look at a culture holistically, the twin pillars upon which that society takes root are food and music. Two connective forms of expression that satiate both our innate need for pleasure and our survival as a whole. Aside from religion and sports, music is what brings people together on a mass scale–the same can be said about food in its power to connect families, friends, and entire populations. When we lose the ability to listen to music, when we stop sharing food with others, we no longer feel strong or whole. The connection between the two runs deep, which is why neither can be taken lightly when addressing the concept of a restaurant in a city whose culture is strengthened by those two foundations.
Upon entering Ariete, as if you discovered the Coconut Grove oasis by happenstance, you immediately feel welcome. Taurus, one of the city’s most historic bars, hugs the French Country home-inspired restaurant, instantly eliminating the stuffiness that often over-spices fine dining restaurants. It’s already close to the hearts of locals. The menu is infused with the light and classic items of a European locale, sewn together by Chef Mike Beltran’s Cuban heritage. Now that we’re on the subject of the man behind the taste, let’s look at Chef Beltran for a second.
“A good menu is like a playlist, you have a little bit of spice, you have a little bit of rock n roll.”
His own curated playlist sets the tone for the entire space, a masterpiece of a compilation that spans nearly every genre and era in time. Over the course of your meal, you’ll be guided by the sounds of musical greats like Freddie Hubbard, Ray Barreto, and Creedence, with a little Trick Daddy thrown in. Why use the word eclectic when you can just say “real”? Anything that is created with authenticity behind it is bound to be celebrated, which is why we weren’t surprised to see older patrons bobbing their heads along to Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life”. It’s just good. To Chef Beltran, music and food go hand in hand: “A good menu is like a playlist,” Beltran says “you have a little spice, you have a little bit of rock and roll.” To him and to his team at Ariete, the music and the food represent them collectively in equal parts. “There’s nothing stuffy about Herbie [Hancock], there’s nothing stuffy about our menu.”
Now back to the culinary playlist at hand, or tongue, rather. The tracks are coastal, homely dishes brought to life through carefully absorbed technique and an overarching thoughtful vision. The same reason why we seek refuge in music is why we call certain food comforting–it’s a simple mechanism for sharing and satisfaction. And there is no lacking of comfort in Ariete’s menu. With Beltran and partner Jason Odio’s family pictures seasoning the walls with nostalgia, you take a sip of the locale’s impressive cocktail menu. What we swigged: Old Cuban, Chef Beltran’s favorite; El Lobo, a spicy mezcal number; and Aqua de Coco, easily the most refreshing drink on the list.
The same reason why we seek refuge in music is why we call certain food comforting–it’s a simple mechanism for sharing and satisfaction.
The sounds of cooking penetrate a rhythm into the entire experience with the exposed kitchen just feet away from your table as you float into the comforts of your childhood home. Then, you’re snapped back to the here and now and your food arrives to the table. Chef Beltran was inspired by his grandparents, the master chefs that generously fed their tribe. From heart to plate, Beltran inherited this skill, and feeds the soul effortlessly. The cilantro-bred Pigtails came first, a special that night and a soon-to-be permanent appetizer on the menu…with great reason. Along with those we had the Grilled Oysters with Bone Marrow Butter, decadence incarnate, and the surprisingly refreshing Tuna Conserva. Then came two house-favorites: the Wild Mushrooms laying creamily over corn porridge, and the Foie Gras–an absolute must-have (a.k.a one of the best I’ve ever tried).
We were then ushered, not against our will, onto the next course, David Bowie and James Brown forming the culinary transitions between dishes. This kind of multi-sensory experience proves why when describing a person’s preferences in a complimentary way we choose to say they have “good taste”. We dug rather barbarically into the Local Fish, the homemade bacon and perfectly consistent hollandaise winning us over. But it was the “5-Day” smoked Pork Chop that did me in, a coy bed of collard greens and frisée dancing around the caramelized oeuvre. Instead of a digestif, which was direly needed at this point, we looked towards the dessert menu for solace, bowing down to the fluffiness of the Citrus Pie. It was the ultimate mix of easygoing and refined, and we were happy. The funny thing about such a welcoming place as Ariete is you leave with the familiar feeling that you just made a few more close friends…or at least my stomach did.