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Ariston - first look

Frodnesor | Feb 9, 2008 05:46 PM

Ariston is a new Greek/Mediterranean restaurant that has opened up in the space on 71st Street on Miami Beach previously occupied by Ouzo (which itself has moved into the former Madiba space on South Beach). Ariston just opened up this past Tuesday and we paid a visit this evening. Turns out to be not terribly different from Ouzo.

In fact, as we walked in, one of the former hosts I remember from Ouzo was working the door (along with a couple other people), but all the other faces were unfamiliar. I didn't get a chance to get the story and figure out what the connection was. The place has been spiffed up just a touch - new wood furniture to replace the former colorfully-painted furniture, linens on the tables, a few additions to some of the murals on the walls. But it looks like what it is - a simple casual place that someone has tried to make look a little more upscale.

The menu is also very similar to what was at Ouzo's, with a few additions and subtractions. Dips (hummus, tzatziki, taramasalata, etc.) all seem the same, as do the salads and most of the other apps including the meze-type mixed appetizer platters. Also has most of the typical items - moussaka, gyro, chicken kebab, etc. Some other items seemed different - there are a number of braised items (a lamb shank, a beef stew, chicken, etc.), many different vegetables, a few pastas, several fish items, some grilled items, a couple pricey items for 2 to split (pasta w/ lobster, beef tenderloin). Some items seemed out of place (spaghetti bolognese?).

We went with a couple vegetable meze and some hummus to start, then a salmon topped w/ a wild thyme honey glaze, and grilled octopus. Before these were brought out, we were started with some nice walnut-studded bread served with a little dish of olive oil and another of a black olive tapenade.

Roasted beets were sliced into wide, thin rounds, topped with their own greens and a drizzle of oil (a sprinkle of feta cheese is a couple bucks extra and I regretted not asking for this extravagance); wild greens sauteed in olive oil w/ garlic and lemon was as simple as it sounds but good (didn't find anyone to ask what the "wild" greens were, though it potentially could have been not-so-wild spinach). The hummus was (like Ouzo's) somewhat underflavored and could use a little something to perk it up, though served with nice fresh warm pita.

I tried the grilled octopus primarily to see how it compared to the great octopus I used to get at Ouzo, and it held up well. Tasty, tender, crisp from the grill on the outside, this completely hit the spot. Unfortunately they don't have the grilled octoupus appetizer like they used to have at Ouzo, which was a huge portion and a great bargain. This came with a side of rice, french fries (?) or mashed potatoes (???) - I went with rice, which was just plain white rice, a disappointment compared to the tasty rice studded w/ chickpeas they did at Ouzo.

The salmon was a little dry to my taste but still flavorful, Frod Jr. was quite happy with it though, particularly the thyme honey glaze.

They had at least a half dozen each of white and red wines by the glass, including some Greek wines, and I had a perfectly inoffensive Greek white wine whose name I will never recall.

Went across the street to Dolce Vita for dessert.

Service was friendly and entirely unproblematic though they're obviously still in the process of training the staff (only been open a week). Kitchen moved everything out at the right time and execution was error-free.

Being a North Beach guy, I was disappointed to see Ouzo relocate south. However, it looks like we've got something of a reincarnation back in the same space, which should make for another good neighborhood option.

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