Since my first experience at Cure in Lawrenceville in 2012 , my favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh, it has been my choice for special occasion dinners such as birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, that one time 3 Wednesdays ago I felt I accomplished something deserving of a Cure visit… I guess basically any time I choose to treat myself with the genius presence of Executive Chef Justin Severino… This, my friends, is my long overdue review of.. Cure.
I could write a novel (read: romance novel) as I attempt to summarize why I love this place so much, why Justin Severino is deserving of his James Beard Award nomination for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic”… but I’ll do my best to stick to my latest experience, 7:00 this past Friday, which also happens to be the first time I got to sit at the Chef’s Counter (thanks to reservations made for us by my wonderfully amazing boyfriend.) To this point – plan ahead: reservations are necessary. To make one here, simply call or visit their website and fill out the resie form. (Note: your reservation is not confirmed until you receive a call or email back. I actually love this personal touch. It makes me feel like they’re inviting me over for dinner.) Inside, Cure is small and perfect. It’s dimly lit with natural wood planked walls, beautiful wooden table tops, and animal/outdoorsy accents that subtly nod to this restaurant’s specialty and vision: butchering, curing and expertly preparing the most perfect meats and local ingredients, reflecting the seasons of Western PA and its local farms. Upon entering:
YOU WILL FEEL : Taken care of and comfortable. (You may be eating perfectly crafted 5-star meals, but you will be doing it in jeans.)
YOU WILL HEAR : The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton. (Not too loud – just enough to perfectly set the tone of the evening.)
YOU WILL SEE : The coziest, most comfortable decor. It seriously feels like you’re being served by Chef Severino in his way-too-cool and understated cabin in the mountains.
Last Friday night, we were led through the front of the restaurant, to the back Chef’s Counter. AH! I seriously felt like a little kid at Disney World for the first time. ALL the other times I have eaten here, I am typically craning my neck in curiosity throughout dinner, attempting to catch glimpses of the work being done behind the scenes. Tonight I finally got to see it right in front of me. It was seriously amazing. On this night, Severino was not here, and Sous Chef Nate Hobart was running the show. I was speechless and incredibly impressed. This team ran like a finely tuned machine. This cook station is SMALL, and is PACKED with chefs. From Nate expertly plating, to the protein cook, to the badass individually slicing and plating every SINGLE piece of charcuterie for the Salumi boards as they were ordered, they spoke quietly and professionally to each other. And I was lucky enough to spend my dinner watching them prepare and expedite what I feel is the best food I’ve been lucky enough to eat.
First, the drinks. Although we went with red wine tonight, Cure is also home to one of the most talented bar tenders in town, Colin Anderson. His cocktails are historically inspired and employ many ancient styles and methods with modernist twists, including foams and garnishes. Cure also has an extensive wine list and a selection of beers. Now on to the food =).
If you are a fan of charcuterie, look no further. Cure’s is simply the best. All of the meats on their boards are cured, smoked, cooked, prepared in house, and are accompanied by sliced baguette, the most deliciously amazing mustards in all the land, and pickled vegetables. There are two sizes of Salumi ($12) and ($40). The small is great to split between two diners (which is what Tim and I did tonight). We love to pair it with two entrees (sometimes we throw in a small plate if there is something we need to try). The large is great to split amongst a larger table, or pair with one entrée if there are two of you.
Tonight, the Salumi included ciccioli, nduja, pepperone, lardo, mortadella, duck speck. (Noteworthy: there will be lots of words on this menu you may not recognize. Cure is so so wonderful about answering any culinary questions you may have. It’s one of the things I love most about it here; you are being served a 5-star meal, but without the pretense, and you never EVER feel intimidated.) When the Salumi is brought to the table, the server explains what each item on the board is, which is a great opportunity to ask any additional questions. Then, you eat. Tim and I always have fun trying to create the most perfect bite. (Although let’s be real every bite is perfect.) Regardless, every bit of this plate is the perfect balance of savory, meaty goodness, saltiness, acidity from the pickled veggies, and the perfect punches of mustard. It’s just beautiful.
Next, the main courses!! It’s always hard to choose here. The dishes are centered around the proteins, so Tim and I always like to pick the two that stand out to us the most, and split them. Tonight, we went with the Lamb ($42) Roasted Peppers, Tzatziki, Falafel, Zucchini, Roasted Garlic and Shallots, Cilantro, Orange. And the Heritage Farm Chicken ($26) Breast and Confit, Bacon, Chorizo, Jalapeño-Plum Cornbread, Tomatillo Jam, Corn Custard, Lime Aioli, Gem Lettuce. I mean… I am not exaggerating when I say I am still talking about these dishes as I write this the week after. I absolutely love and admire Justin’s plating style, and am contemplating printing these photos for framing and home-adornment. Behold:
I feel as though I could let the photos speak for themselves, but I obviously have way too much to say about them to just leave it at that. THE CHICKEN! Oh, that chicken. It truly was the most perfectly piece of confit anything I’ve had in my life. Paired with the mildly sweet and spicy cornbread and corn custard, the citrusy, creamy lime aioli.. the salty BACON. I just can’t. Another thing I love about Justin’s cooking style (I know, there are like a million) is the variety of textures on each plate. He didn’t just serve you perfectly seasoned, juicy chicken breast.. he ALSO served you heavenly, crispy, sweet and salty chicken confit, to compliment the texture. His plates are works of art. You don’t just casually taste the cornbread and lime aioli… you effortlessly travel to every spot on your plate, dipping, cutting, piecing together all of the different components. It’s an experience.
– Separately, the components are delicious.. together, they are perfect. –
And THE LAMB. Ugh. I want it again right now. The crispy falafel and the creamy, bright tzatziki. The tender buttery-textured roasted garlic and shallots. The tangy cilantro and briny roasted red peppers. PURE PERFECTION. Nobody does it like Cure. It’s just that simple.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a trip to Cure without that blissful, heavenly Dark Chocolate Souffle Cake ($10): with Pistachio Butter, Sea Salt, Vin Cotto, and XXVO. Oh my lordy. I mean literally, this is what dessert is (or should be, at least.) The soufflé cake is rich and moist and decadent, especially accompanied by the pistachio butter. And the richness is expertly cut by the flecks of coarse salt. And, typically, cause we just can’t order one, we order the second dessert as well. (There are usually two on the menu). Tonight the second offering was Peach Cobbler ($10): Stewed Blueberries, Vanilla Whipped Cream, White Ver Jus, Honey and Basil. The tart, perfectly plump blueberries are the most wonderful addition to the rich cobbler and whipped cream. Just too too good.
I have always loved food (like, really loved food). But I can truly say that visiting Cure for the first time in 2012 awakened my heart and soul to the love of the experience of food. It makes me sad to have to end this review. I could literally talk about it for days. (I actually do sometimes – ask anyone that has ever talked to me about where to eat in Pittsburgh.) Cure is so so special to me, and I will continue to come here any and all chances I am afforded.
Overall Experience: 5 (Actually a 1000000)
A few nuggets of advice:
- Reservations are not an option. The seats are limited and everyone wants one.
- If you aren’t into meat.. I have to sadly say this place probably isn’t for you.
- There are so many options as far as ordering goes – get creative with your combinations of Salumi, small plates, entrees and desserts. TRY EVERYYYTTHINGG!!
- Order a cocktail, or 3. Anderson’s concoctions are something to experience.
- If you’re into dinner and a show, book a seat at the Chef’s Counter. It was an amazing experience, but every seat in the house is lovely.
So, there you have it. I guess this is the end of my review, but it is CERTAINLY not the last time I will be at Cure. I’m already thinking about when my next trip will be. Cure really holds a special place in my heart – and I hope you go and enjoy it as much as I do every single time.
5336 Butler Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201