Seeing hunks of cured meat hanging in a restaurant display case tells me that the restaurant owner (or chef) ‘gets it’ when it comes to food. You can’t spend that much time and effort making a dozen different types of charcuterie if you don’t understand, respect and appreciate good food, right? Somebody, please tell me I’m right.
I am told that the charcuterie at Cured, save for the prosciutto, is made in-house, and after tasting five of the cured meats on offer, its obvious that this portion of the menu is the restaurant’s strongpoint.
The accompanying cheeses, though, need work. With all the great cheese out there (many available from Alberta cheesemakers), you’d expect to see a better curated selection than Oka, Bothwell Cheddar, Bocconcini, Swiss Gruyere and Silvan Star Gouda. I have no issue with the locally-made, award-winning Gouda, but the other varieties are run-of-the-mill cheeses found at your local supermarket. The owner’s comment of the cheese being an “afterthought” doesn’t make much sense being that the sign says Meat. Cheese. Wine. At $5 per one ounce portion, that’s one heck of a pricy afterthought. They do make their own ricotta but this dollop of ricotta needed a drizzle of olive oil and a hit of Maldon sea salt to liven it up.
The $29 charcuterie platter came nicely appointed with home-made compotes, mustard, nuts and berries—and some weird corn pesto. A hefty amount of grilled bread takes up the rest of the real estate on the platter.
The room is impressive: stylish, tufted, green bar stools face an impressive wall of wine and the ever popular Edison light bulbs dangle above wooden-topped tables and French country chairs. Nice touches, very classy…except the patch of flying pig wallpaper that would be better suited to a kid’s corner in a bookshop.
Along with charcuterie and cheese, Cured offers some interesting large and small plates. The dishes sound incredible with combinations of ingredients that you’d expect from a heralded restaurant on EnRoute’s ‘Top 10 Restaurant’ list. I hoped that Chef Phan Au, previously with the Century Hospitality Group, would deliver on the promise.
Lobster Arancini: I’ll make this short. Are they as good as what Daniel Costa makes at Corso 32? No, and if you’ve had them at Corso, you can’t help but compare the two. Unlike Costa’s silky, perfectly stuffed, flavourful rice balls, the ones at Cured were dull and heavy.
Phyllo Wrapped Brie ($13): Good start. The pastry is light, the cheese flows like creamy lava and the blackberry compote is jammy and sweet.
Shishito Peppers: These are rarely offered in Edmonton and I’m happy to see them here because a good shishito dish is a wonderful thing. For $14, you get a substantial amount of peppers. The fun thing about shishitos is that you’re forced to play pepper roulette; approximately one in every 12 peppers is a hot one. Chef Au took the fun out of the game by adding spicy red chili peppers to the dish. As a result, every one of them was hot. Too hot.
Without a doubt, desserts were dismal: great in theory, but in reality, disappointing to say the least. The peanut-bacon brittle dessert ($10) had little bacon in the scant amount of brittle and what was there was so sticky it glued your teeth together. The carrot cake cinnamon bun ($8) woulda/shoulda been a contender, had it not been raw in the middle.
Cured has been open for one week. Could these be “opening jitters”?— a term I detest, by the way— and, no: food preparation and execution by opening day should be without fault, especially on a night when we, and only six other patrons, were in the room. By opening day, servers and owners (if they choose to work the room) need to be able to rattle off ingredients, sources, and preparation methods and properly pronounce the names of the food and the wines. The lack of knowledge and abundance of wrong information just about sank the whole meal.
Cured has the potential of being a culinary force in the city but they’ll need to buck up, and quick, if they want to be seriously considered as place to shell out some serious coin. Our dinner for three, with wine, and before tip, came to $260.
More information on the food, staff, and service at Cured can be found on my CBC Edmonton AM radio segment with Lydia Neufeld.