There are no shortage of documentaries dedicated to Miami’s rich history of indulgence. Most of them involve cocaine. Some of them involve tigers. But there wasn’t much from that era that we’d consider “sophisticated.”
Thankfully Miami has evolved since its neon, coked-out heyday of ’80s excess. And now, for a big, Don Johnson-worthy night out, you don’t have to rent a yellow Lamborghini, go to a corny club, and do an amount of drugs that’d make Tony Montana blush. We mean—you can technically still do that. But you should just go to Ariete instead. Because the phenomenal Coconut Grove restaurant is Miami indulgence, all grown up. It is where to go when you want to live luxuriously, but do so like a sophisticated damn adult.
Although we love Ariete’s space—with its low ceilings, subway tiles, and unexpectedly energetic soundtrack—it’s the food that really makes this place special. Ariete’s menu takes you on some wild detours to places like France and Cuba, but it also never lets you forget you’re in South Florida. Ingredients are local when possible, rotate seasonally, and the fish in the ceviche is always fresh from an ocean just a few blocks away. And while you can have a wonderful meal here nibbling on ceviche and roasted veggies, the best way to do Ariete is to go big.
You can do this in a few different but undeniably luxurious ways. You can order caviar with citrus churros, grilled oysters doused in sea urchin butter, and a sphere of chicken foie mousse and duck/sour orange pâté that’s been shaped into an unbelievably realistic orange. But Ariete has two dishes in particular that are quite possibly the most exciting and unforgettable in town: the monkfish wellington and the canard a la presse—AKA the duck press.
The glistening monkfish wellington is the most impressive piece of fish we’ve ever had. The monkfish is wrapped in a smoked eel and shrimp mousse before it’s baked in a golden pastry that not only preserves the fish’s delicate meat, but also just looks really f*cking cool.
But that duck press is the true star of the menu—and also hands-down the best tableside presentation in town. The show starts when they wheel this medieval-looking machine to the table. The gold contraption is used to compress various parts of the duck into a deep, rich sauce, which they use to smother the absolute best duck you’ll ever taste in your life. The meal, which costs around $135 and serves two, also comes with flaky duck pastelitos, and more rotating sides that utilize every millimeter of the duck and its various parts.
Order either of those dishes, and you will leave the table in a state of numb satisfaction. Maybe you experienced a similar sensation in your younger years, watching the sunrise on the MacArthur Causeway after a brutally long night of partying. But you’ve grown up since then. That doesn’t mean you have to stop having that distinctly Miami brand of hedonistic fun. But now you get to do it at Ariete.
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The menu at Ariete changes frequently, but here are a few examples of the kind of dishes you might find here.
Our Florida Orange
This delicious optical illusion is kind of a must-order. The “orange” is actually a ball of duck and sour orange pâté, and chicken foie mousse. It’s sitting atop a sweet, crumbly “chocolate dirt” and comes with an ultra-fluffy loaf of white bread for spreading. When all of the above are combined into a single bite, the result is confusingly delicious—savory, sweet, crunchy, and creamy. It’s a tad heavy, though, so beware combining this with a big meat course.
Canard A La Presse
This is truly dinner and a show. The tableside presentation—which involves a gold contraption used to compress various parts of the duck into a rich sauce—lasts for about ten to 15 minutes and is fascinating to watch. But the phenomenally delicious end result (the best duck you’ll ever have) is the real reason you order this. They only serve a limited amount of this per night, so arrive early (like, before 8pm) for the best chance to get one.
The ceviche and crudo changes often here—both in the locally-caught fish they use and in its presentation. However, it’s always excellent and worth ordering—especially if you plan on getting one of the heavier meat entrees or the duck press dinner.
You will not see the Chug Burger on the menu, but they still serve a limited amount per night. It is one of Miami’s best burgers—with two perfect patties, American cheese, pickles, and secret sauce between a sesame seed bun. But if you are hell-bent on getting one, just walk a few blocks over to Chug’s, Ariete’s sister restaurant, instead. It’s a full-time menu item over there, and (as deep as our love for this burger goes) there are more impressive things on Ariete’s menu.
They bring this to the table so you can take a moment to appreciate the golden beauty of the wellington before they carve it into four thick slices. This would be worth ordering just for the perfectly meaty monkfish. But all the bells and whistles that come with it—an outer layer of eel and shrimp mousse, squid ink gnocchi, truffle—make this a dish you’ll really never forget.
Pastrami-Style Wagyu Short Rib
This has been on Ariete’s menu for a long time—and for good reason. It’s a delicious mash-up: the flavor of short rib with the texture of pastrami. It’s also not a bad dish to share since the meat is very rich.
The crazy thing about Ariete’s flan isn’t necessarily that they use candy cap mushrooms in the custard, but that they’ve found a way to vastly improve a dessert we thought we’d tasted every conceivable version of. This is our favorite flan in Miami—and it’s not even close.