Dining Review: Curate

April 2019

Curate Asheville, North Carolina

One of our favorite cuisines together is Spanish tapas so when Curate came up in my searches as one of the highest rates restaurants in Asheville, I knew I had to get us in. After a few phones calls, a reservation opened up for 8:15PM- always keep calling when you are looking for a spot if the night is booked as you never know who will cancel, even last minute!

The first thing you see is a beautifully appointed bar by the host podium. We did not have too long to enjoy it as we were immediately ushered to our tables.

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With an open kitchen concept, we were fortunate to have a great view of the action. I really enjoy watching the process from start to finish and the workings of dinner service to a packed house – the energy is contagious!

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The menu is a bit overwhelming at first but our server was great in breaking it down into sections, recommending about three to four plates a person. While we wanted to order a bunch then order more if we were hungry, our server informed us that our selections would actually dictate the progress through the meal, pairing certain items together and in a particular order. That being said, we ended up ordering ten plates hoping it would suffice.

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We started with a bottle of Rioja that we all enjoyed throughout our meal.

Our first set of dishes to come out (beautiful dishes from East Fork, a local pottery company):

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  • jamón ibérico de bellota : hand-cut, 100% pure ibérico pigs from cinco jotas, acorn fattened and free range, giving it a unique and exceptionally nutty flavor)
  • pan de cristal con tomate : toasted crispy bread w/ fresh tomato, garlic, and olive oil with manchego cheese

Good quality jamón ibérico is always on the pricier side but it is well worth it when you have access to it. The nutty flavor that is described is thoroughly expressed among the fatty bits. And every since our trip to Barcelona, we have craved the simple dish of pan tomate and this lived up to our memory. The bread was crispy on the outside but soft on the inside, soaked with the flavor of olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato. While the description had the monchego cheese with the bread, it came out of the side. This was a great way to start off our meal.

The next plate was one everyone wanted but no one admitted to until the server mentioned it was one of the dishes they are known for:

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  • sardinas curadas : salt-cured sardines, pickled raspberries, toasted pistachio (inspired by an elBulli flavor combination)

These were tasty little guys and the flavor combination was very innovative. Putting the pickled raspberries with the pistachios in a sweet glaze matched with the salty sardines was surprisingly delicious. The only critique is we would have liked to have more raspberries on the plate to match the length of the sardines.

Up next were two dishes we were definitely looking forward to:

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  • buñuelos de bacalao : light and airy salt cod fritters topped with rosemary-infused wild mountain bees honey
  • pulpo a la gallega : galician style octopus served warm w/sea salt, olive oil, spanish paprika, and yukon gold potato purée

We were between getting the cod fritters or the traditional croquetas de jamon (ham fritters) but since the ham fritters are always a “safe” option, we went with the cod and was that one of our best decisions of the night! These lightly fried balls were so crunch on the outside and creamy on the inside, not a hint of fishy taste. I think we could have had another round of these for sure. The octopus was perfectly cooked, not overdone or chewy.

Shortly after was the dish:

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  • canelones de carne : pasta filled with pork, beef, and chicken liver, topped with a creamy bechamel cause and manchego cheese

It was rolled up meat stuffed inside a lasagna noodle with creamy, cheesey goodness on top. This dish could do no wrong with that saucy cheese combination. The meat inside was well flavored and tender. We all enjoyed this dish a lot.

It was time for our entree styled course with our server’s favorites:

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  • setas al jerez : sautéed mushrooms with a splash of sherry
  • presida iberico de bellotagrilled spice-rubbed shoulder cur of 100% pure ibérico pork from cinco jotas

I am not sure what they did with the mushrooms but they were so insanely tasty – it had to be more than just the sherry. The meat dish was also well seasoned but was probably my least favorite dish of the night but I am also not a big red meat consumer. Those mushrooms though – I could eat them all day.

We were feeling full so we were happy with the amount of dishes we had up to this point. It was time to transition to the sweeter side onto dessert:

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  • berenjenas con miel : fried eggplant drizzled in wild mountain bees honey, garnished with rosemary accompanied with rosemary ice cream

This is the dish that I was devastated to see removed from our local tapas place at home so I knew I had to savor it here. It was just as wonderful as I recalled. The sweetness of the honey drizzled with the lightly battered eggplant. All the nom’s here! Our server suggested a pairing with rosemary ice cream that the table opted to indulge. I dislike rosemary as a spice tremendously so I knew this was not for me, but the rest of the table agreed it was way to aggressive of a flavor to enjoy.

And the grand final dish:

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  • pan con chocolate : torched chocolate ganache with sweet croutons and extra virgin olive oil ice cream / Carajillo de Orujo

This was an interesting dessert. While there was tons of chocolate on the plate, it was certainly not a sweet dish. The chocolate ganache was more of a pudding consistency with mild flavor and then the sweet croutons were more like bland cookie crumbles. The olive oil ice cream was awesome and much needed to help give the dish some richness and texture.

And with that, our meal was complete. Surprisingly, I think we got the portions pretty close to perfect, maybe could have done one or two more small plates between the four of us but not bad at all.

Our only disappointments were not having the migas con verduras (fried bread crumbs with roasted brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and raisins finished with a celery root and yogurt mousse) available as advertised since we love brussel sprouts and  a few snuck in costs- manchego cheese with the tomato bread and rosemary ice cream with the eggplant.

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal here and would recommend it. There are so many options on this menu to fit any taste and give the opportunity to try something new. While this was our most expensive meal in Asheville, the quality of the food was excellent and we enjoyed the innovative risks to turn traditional dishes into their own.

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