I'm not really sure why it took us so long to make it to Cure, the lauded Lawrenceville restaurant with award-winning chef Justin Severino at the helm.
In part, we were thinking that it was the type of restaurant where you needed to have something to celebrate to justify a dinner there. But after experiencing one of the all around most amazing meals we've had in the past year, we can definitely say that you don't need a reason to celebrate to come here- other than the fact that you exist in the same time and space as this restaurant.
Cure is All About Charcuterie
Cure calls its menu urban-Mediterranean-influenced, which I think is just a fancy way of saying mind-blowingly delicious.
The menu highlights the house charcuterie program with all manner of cured meats and cured seafood dishes, plus snack-sized dishes, pastas, and meat and seafood entrees. We absolutely love menus that are built for grazing your way through to try a little bit of everything, and Cure's enables just that.
Our waiter was great at helping us judge the right amount of food to order as we wanted to try lots of dishes and split them all between the two of us. We also appreciated the thorough explanations of the items in the dishes as they were served to us.
With complicated plates like these it's great to see how everything fits together to gain a greater appreciation for the creativity and artistry that goes into the menu.
The Drinks Are Good, But the Food…
The cocktail menu was intriguing and we ordered a couple of drinks that were fine, but they were overshadowed by the outstanding meal that followed.
We started with the small salumi plate and after just a few bites regretted not getting the large one because it was so good. We'd never had ciccioli before but these slices of cured pork were fatty, juicy, and moist.
The nduja was also interesting with its very smoky flavor and its spreadable texture. The breseola and pepperone were the more traditional and familiar additions to the salumi plate, but the chef had his own unique takes on even these meats: the pepperoni was meant to taste like a Negroni.
Yes, as in the cocktail.
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Amazingly, it had an ever so slight bitter orange flavor like Campari. Crazy!
Next came our favorite course of the evening, the maple cured and smoked sockeye salmon rillette. The smooth pate-like salmon was served on very crunchy sourdough toast.
In addition to these contrasting textures, the flavor combinations were incredibly unique. The salmon was just ever so slightly sweet and smokey, but not overly so, while a cucumber and lemon gel on top brought brightness and acidity.
The other garnishes were genius- super crunchy and slightly tangy dehydrated pickled red onion, and a smear of caraway creme freche. It sounds like there was a lot going on here, and there was, but it miraculously all harmonized into one unforgettable dish.
We just had to try a pasta course and went with the familiar spaghetti carbonara in a half portion. It was everything you'd expect and then some- salty, crunchy pieces of pork, tender pasta, and a perfectly eggy/cheesy sauce with sweet and starchy peas popping through.
The fact that the chef and the kitchen could pull off classics like the spaghetti carbonara as well as inventive dishes like the salmon rillette further adds to our love and appreciation for this restaurant.
For our entree we zeroed in on the duck. The duck had amazing crispy skin and tender breast meat, served on top of farro with a rich, meaty, brothy flavor.
Balance came from sweet charred grapes, crunchy and bitter frisee, a bright mint sauce, and a tart hibiscus sauce. The presentation of this one was so artful that it was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Don't Forget Dessert
Although we were quite full by this point, the dessert menu lured us in with the paw paw cream pie, and we were so glad it did. A crispy crust cocooned a sweet, creamy paw paw filling topped with dots of meringue.
Another dimension was added by a tart bourbon-prune marmalade on top, a raisin sauce on the side, and a swoosh of smoked maple syrup across the plate.
We are glad to say that Cure is one restaurant that is very deserving of the buzz that surrounds it, and is among the best restaurants in the city.
We don't say that one lightly!
Cure is located at 5336 Butler Street in Lawrenceville. Reservations are required.
For more delicious restaurants in Lawrenceville, check out Morcilla, Pusadee's Garden, Umami, Banh Mi & Ti, or grab a drink at Allegheny Wine Mixer. Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!
Also be on the lookout for hog butchering demos by Justin Severino! We attended one of these at Morcilla and had a great time. Click the previous link for a full review!
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