Tuesday of last week was sous chef Michael Beltran's last day at the elegant Cypress Room. The toque, who has worked under chef de cuisine Roel Alcudia since the Design District eatery opened in March 2013, will team with Sidebar owner and high school friend Jason Odio in a new Little Havana venture.
Named after a restaurant Beltran's parents and grandparents worked at in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Ariete will open in the former and short-lived Duke Bistro space (1547 SW Eighth St.) on Calle Ocho just down the street from the resurrected Ball & Chain and popular Azucar. This should add to Little Havana's much awaited (and deserved) renaissance.
But if you're thinking it'll be another arroz con frijoles joint, think again. "Definitely not going to be Cuban food," says Beltran. "A lot of people think if you're going to open a restaurant in Little Havana, it's got to be Cuban but that's not true."
"We're going for more new-American combined with New World cuisine, which is what I did for many many years with Norman," he added, referring to Norman Van Aken, whom Beltran worked with at Tuyo as chef de partie.
The two-floor, 70-seat restaurant will boast an upstairs lounge with five classic cocktails and a downstairs dining room. There will also be outdoor seating as Odio and Beltran are in the process of building a courtyard. The duo, who have known each other for 14 years — since they both attended Christopher Columbus High School — hadn't seen each other in a couple of years.
Odio, who opened Sidebar in late 2014 and instantly became Brickell's hottest watering hole, is actually related to the landlord. "Jason really likes food and I really like Jason, so we connected about a year ago and started tossing out this idea of doing a Miami restaurant for Miami people in an area that was very special to us. We have a special relationship with the people in Little Havana."
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Though there's no exact opening date, Beltran is saying sometime later this year. "We don't want to put a time on it." In the meantime, he's already hard at work testing out dishes and conceptualizing the menu. "Since we don't have an exact date we have a format of a menu what we plan on doing but can't say exactly what it'll be because seasons change and the focus from day one has been to have really good product and working as seasonally and local and going from there."
What we do know is that it will boast a family-oriented, sharing-style menu with a long list of snack, about eight or so entrées, and big items to share from the wood grill. "The way I like to call this is intimate interaction," says Beltran. "Sunday supper-style food. It's more than just going out to a restaurant."
"The decision to leave Cypress Room was incredibly hard one. It's a phenomenal restaurant with incredible people behind it but this was an opportunity to go back to a neighborhood with history and do something really special."