Sunday, February 26, 2012


This past Friday, our friends S & R invited us to join them for dinner at Cure, a recently opened (January 2012, I think) restaurant on Butler Street in Lawrenceville. I wanted to try Cure because I had heard good things not just about Cure but also about Chef Severino when he was at Elements. At the same time, my desire to try Cure was somewhat dampened by my... fear of the menu. Read on for more details, and remember, despite being a 'food blogger' and loving to cook and dine out, I have a sensitive stomach and I am somewhat peculiar about what I will/won't eat/try! So I went in excited and fearful!
Friday evening was quite blustery. We parked on Butler Street and allowed the gusts to propel us a block down to the pig that greets you at the door. You may be noticing the step in the photo. Yes, there is a small step. It's even smaller if you go around the corner. It was quite easy for SP to get me up the step. Inside is dark and cozy. Rustic, with one wall wood planks, meat hooks for coat hangars, a chalkboard not announcing daily specials but instead upcoming events, such as dinners with other local chefs and cooking classes. The music was a wee bit loud for me, so I had to lean in to the table to hear/speak (I have a soft voice so often in loud restaurants I need to lean in and yell!). The rear of the restaurant has the open kitchen and I think there is bar-like seating there, too, but since it's up 4-5 steps, I didn't check it out. The bathrooms are up the steps as well.
I really liked the interior. Our table was ready and waiting for us even though SP & I were about 20 minutes early (there wasn't as much traffic as we expected). Our reservation was for 7:15 pm and we were surprised Cure wasn't more crowded. It did get quite busy between 7 and 8 pm, and also, we thought that maybe this meat-centric restaurant wasn't so busy because it was a Friday during Lent.

Since Cure is BYOB, our server opened our wine (Kendall Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon) and we enjoyed a glass while looking around, spotting all the pig decor/figurines, and looking over the menu.
I like the torn, charred look to the menu, presented on a piece of charred wood and held in place by a rubberband. SP & I used our early arrival time to look up, on his phone, some words on the menu that we didn't know. I felt kind of stupid and was thankful for the invention of smartphones. Otherwise, I would have had to be the annoying diner, peppering the server with endless questions about each ingredient, or I would have had to just wing it and hope that my stomach liked what it got!

What didn't we know? SP & I like to think we know a fair amount about foods/ingredients, but we both were a little clueless here.

Treviso: my guess was going to be a green, but there was also rapini in the dish and that's a green, so then I got confused. Looking it up we learned it's a town in Italy and also a red radicchio.

Boudin Blanc/Boudin Noir: my guess was going to be a blood sausage/non blood sausage based on the blanc/noir, and it is.

Escabeche: I know I've seen this before, but I just couldn't remember that it refers to poached or fried fish/meat with an acidic marinade.

Bacalao: we guessed this would be like Japanese bonito flakes, and we were close. It's dried, salted cod.

After our phone research, I felt a little too stupid to be at the restaurant! S & R arrived, opened their Mark West Pinot Noir, and we ordered. SP & I shared Crispy Pigs Ear Salad.
Charred radicchio, egg, pickled duck tongue, anchovy vinaigrette, and Pecorino Romano. I was apprehensive and swore to SP that I would try ONE BITE but that he'd have to eat the rest. Somehow, I forgot all about the scary to me parts of this dish (pig ear, anchovy, duck tongue) when it arrived and once I tasted it, I couldn't stop. I had more than a few bites, and I don't mean bites of the 'normal' parts like the cheese and egg. This was so tasty! R ordered this for herself and she loved it, too.
S & R shared this Salumi platter with salami toscano, lardo, pork terrine, coppa di testa, chicken rillettes, chorizo, duck ciccioli, cornichon, mustard, red onion. They would have liked a bit more bread for with the meats. SP tried a taste of chorizo and said it was tasty and spicy. I tried a bit of whatever is in the lower right of the photo and it was pretty tasty. This is another example of scary to me foods - meats studded with things like garlic, meats cooked in and then mixed with lots of fat and turned into a spreadable paste, head cheese, meat jellies/terrines - the idea of these things does not appeal to me but at Cure when I forgot about what they were and actually tasted them, I went, hmmm, yum. Let's try another taste. Hmm yes, that's good. 

S also ordered the White Bean Soup, which he said was very good. I forgot to take a photo. It comes with goat cheese, crispy kale, and chili oil. When it is served, the server places a bowl with the solid ingredients on the table in front of you and the pours the hot broth from a kettle over the solid ingredients in the bowl.  
Although I had been eyeing the lamb, fear of garlic (although our server checked and said I would be OK) and the fact that lamb is tastiest when slightly pink and my stomach sometimes doesn't like when I feed it pink lamb made me choose the safer dish: chicken. Heritage Farm Chicken with escarole, pancetta, soffrito, potato espuma. When it arrived, I really couldn't identify anything under the gravy and espuma, so I just dug in. Oh my gosh. So good! The chicken was good, but what I really enjoyed was the interplay of the flavors of everything else when I took a bite. Yum.
SP chose Boudin Blanc with melted cabbage, dates, bernaise, mustard. I had a taste and thought it was terrific. A very flavorful sausage without resorting to all those strong spices and herbs for flavor.
S ordered the Meat Pie with pork belly, sweetbreads, duck, chicken liver, bone marrow, sunchoke, maitake, and rosemary. He said it was delicious. R has tried this dish on one of their previous visits and she enjoys it a lot, too.
R ordered the Spanish Mackerel, escabeche, bacalao, sweet garlic, chive. She liked it a lot. Sorry for the horrible photo. It's dark in Cure!
We didn't need dessert, we were satisfied, but we decided we wanted dessert. We shared the chocolate dessert: Chocolate Souffle Cake, pistachio butter, sea salt, olive oil. S & R shared the same dessert. Everyone thought it was quite good and devoured every last bit. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the pistachio butter since I do not normally like nuts/pistachios/nut butter.

I discovered that we all are quite skilled in scraping our plates clean and maybe even licking them a tiny bit!

I really enjoyed my Cure meal, and as I said before, that surprises me because the menu is 'different.' I haven't seen too many Pittsburgh menus with pickled duck tongue or meat pie like this. It is a smallish menu with about 5 starters, 6 entrees, and 2 desserts, and I think some items change frequently. For instance, just a couple of days ago there was a mushroom risotto on the menu and I was thinking that would be my safe choice, but when we got to Cure, it was no longer on the menu. The mackerel that R ordered was not listed online on Saturday. Perhaps it's a fish option for Friday only because of Lent?

Our server was excellent. Happy to answer questions. Kept the water glasses filled. S & R brought 2 bottles of wine, a white and a red. They opted to open the red first and our server offered to keep the white chilled in their refrigerator in back.

It's always nice when a restaurant you are slightly 'fearful of' because its menu offerings are a bit 'different' turns out to be an amazing, delicious experience. That was the case with Cure for me. Lately I've seen more restaurants in Pittsburgh offering items like bone marrow, pork belly, pates, foie gras, and it makes me happy to see this even if it might not always be my personal choice in foods. I know my chicken entree wasn't too 'different' but I am excited that I enjoyed the pig ear & pickled duck tongue so much plus my tiny taste of the salumi platter and my taste of boudin blanc.

Cure is now on our 'Go To Again' list. It's delicious.

Cure on Urbanspoon

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