This year, we’re taking a 10-restaurant tour of one of Pittsburgh’s up-and-coming foodie zones, Lawrenceville. (Click to read about all of our visits to Lawrenceville restaurants and eateries.) Our second stop was at a place that we’re almost embarrassed to admit we had yet to visit: Justin Severino‘s renowned dining establishment (and hopefully the first of many that he owns), Cure.
As you can tell from the lighting and the couple open spots in the dining area, we arrived for an early dinner to beat the crowd. Which, let me tell you, definitely turns out, even on a Wednesday. The vibe inside is intimate and kind of rustic. Just out of view on the right is an upper deck counter that overlooks the kitchen (there’s a seriously long, multi-week waiting list for those seats). And just in view is a quality bar that is small, but quite nicely…a-hem…cure-ated. (Sorry, Anti-Pun League; you can add the fine onto my tab.)
Before the meal, we unwound a bit with a pair of well crafted cocktails, both of which were selected with the help of our knowledgeable server, Brie. On the right, you’ve got Fox’s scrumptious gin fizz, and on the left, you have a fully assembled “Leave it to Me” — in which you’re given the ingredients, including a little mini-carafe of gin, and you get to put the drink together to your own liking. (Incidentally, my own liking turned out to be “very, very much.”)
As we sipped our libations, Fox and I perused the simple yet stylish menu. The main challenge in selecting options was that we wanted to try everything. After some gin and negotiation, though, we settled on our courses for the evening. (We also switched to red wine.)
Charcuterie nerds that we are, it quickly became obvious that we would need to start with the salumi board. It had rabbit terrine, mortadella, duck speck, lavender saucisson sec, lardo, plus some delicious pickled veggies. We loved the presentation, and the range of flavors was excellent.
We also opted to share the King Chinook Salmon, which had hibiscus, baby beets, cucumber, green apple, Meyer lemon, rose, and marcona almonds, and was cured in (wait for it, hipsters) freaking beets and Fernet Branca. We again enjoyed the mingling of flavors, how the sweet played off the bitter and the savory — and the presentation was just lovely. (And don’t tell anyone, but Fox even enjoyed the subtle accent of the Fernet.) I know some people consider this sort of dining to be “fussy,” but Fox and I personally appreciate the care and craftsmanship that goes into building a dish that not only tastes great, but looks great as well.
Then, of course, it was on to the stars of the evening — our magnificently meaty entrees! Fox, as is her wont, went for the hanger steak, which she had medium rare, served with brown butter potato fondue, Beemster-horseradish custard, caramelized onion, roasted butter lettuce, beet jus, and pickled shallot. I had a bite of it before I started in on my own plate — and after that taste, I seriously doubted that my own dish could top it.
I was wrong though. My trump card of an entree was the Red Wattle Pork Rib Roast Chop, which was served with bacon and red wine braised lentils, roast carrots, egg, charred treviso, garlic croutons, smoked baby onion, and maple-apple cider pickled mustard seeds. Holy crap. How good, how satisfying, how succulent was that first bite? Man, in all sincerity, I would master physics, improve on Einstein’s theories, crack the code for time travel, build a transport device, and then cycle back to that very moment just so I could knock my past self out of his chair and steal that first bite from him over, and over, and over, like Carmen Sandiego in a Tardis. That’s how good it was.
After the delicious madness of our main course, it was time to wind down with dessert. I opted for the hibiscus Crème Brulee, served with mulled port, blood orange-olive oil custard, and ginger-molasses streusel. I paired that with a glass of port wine, though in hindsight, I should have opted for something that contrasted the port in the dish, rather than choosing something that amplified that note. It was still really good, but I think could have been transcendent with the proper pairing.
Fox had the better idea. She chose the Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake with pistachio butter and sea salt, but instead of pairing it with port as we usually do at dessert time, she took a tip from Brie and had a dose of Booker’s Uncut Bourbon 6 yr. Now that was riding in style.
Now, admittedly, this was not a cheap meal. It was more like a car payment — but when the food is this good, and the presentation of each course is like an event, and the dinner is luxuriously timed, and the service is prompt but unrushed, the experience is worth the expense. I’d recommend Cure to anyone who is in a celebratory and adventurous mood. The menu changes quite regularly, so even if you don’t find exactly what we ordered, you should definitely check it out!
Cure is located at 5336 Butler St. in Pittsburgh, PA. They open at 5pm Wednesday through Sunday, so be sure to call (412-252-2595) or check in online and grab a reservation.