VISITING CURE was a long time coming for Our Gourmet and his Lovely Dining Companion. While wandering Portsmouth many months back, we had spotted the cozy bistro while walking back from Peirce Island just before dinner. We stepped inside to check it out and lingered for a few minutes, but a busy staffer informed us that they were booked solid.
Chef Julie Cutting, a Seacoast native, worked in several local restaurants prior to launching Cure. The name of the scratch-kitchen restaurant refers to the practice of brining and slow-cooking meats, as we would learn as we sampled one of her signature appetizers.
We made sure to make a reservation before we visited on a recent Friday evening, when the days were still long enough to make us forget that fall was creeping up on us. We had heard Cure had a great patio and requested seating outside. When we arrived we were escorted to a table for two in the small courtyard, where there were a half-dozen tables.
We quickly recognized our evening soundtrack at Cure would be The Bridge from SiriusXM Satellite Radio, the same ’70s singer-songwriter fare we had been listening to in our SUV on our drive from Manchester. It was a good sign we would be in sync for our dining experience.
We started with cocktails primed for a summer night. LDC ordered a Grey Goose martini ($12),while OG sampled one of the Cure concoctions, a variation of a mai tai dubbed the Fly-Tai ($11), made with Gosling’s Dark Rum, pineapple juice and cream of coconut, and finished with ground nutmeg. We heard a nearby patron request it without the nutmeg, but OG enjoyed the tropical drink as originally conceived.
We each paired our drinks with Lobster Bisque ($16), billed as “slow simmered, rich flavors of sherry and tomato, fresh lobster meat.” We would add “big fresh chunks of lobster meat, including some claw.” The bisque was rich, flavorful, with the fresh taste of the sea.
We dispensed with any thought of an obvious pairing for another appetizer and gave in to the inner child in us by ordering the Peanut Butter n’ Jelly Pork Ribs ($14).
The dry-rubbed ribs, smoked in-house, were brushed with raspberry preserve and served with a side of peanut butter sauce, the kind usually paired with Asian dishes such as lettuce wraps. The ribs were scrumptious, but we would not recommend trying them on that first date since you’ll be licking peanut and jelly off of your fingers (and, if you’re OG, off the side of your face).
For her entree, LDC opted to order another appetizer, intrigued by the description of the Wild Maine Mussels ($12), served in a broth of tomato, herb, garlic and white wine, and topped with hand-cut frites and black garlic aioli. What? A pile of French fries sitting on top of a bowl of roasted mussels? Yup. And the shoe-string fries did a great job filling in for crusty pieces of bread.
Because they were fresh-cut potatoes and not at all greasy, the frites did a great job absorbing the tomato-based broth.
If we left any frites in the bowl, you could count them on one hand.
For his entree, OG chose the special. He liked the server’s description of the moonfish entree ($31). The fish was billed as a cross between salmon and tuna. We’d say it was more on the tuna side of that scale.
“The opah, or moonfish, is actually quite fast, and can run with the big boys like tuna and swordfish,” says National Geographic.
OG says that statement holds true in the culinary context. Our moonfish filet was seared with a good amount of pink inside. It sat on a bed of quinoa that had a nice spicy bite to it and was served with asparagus and cubed mango and avocado.
OG paired his entree with a glass of Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon, from Lodi, Calf. ($13). We could say that we liked the description — “notes of espresso roast, melted chocolate and cassis” — but we just wanted to say we followed our moonfish with a Freakshow. It turned out to be a fine glass of wine, a freak show in the best possible sense of the word.
We loved Cure’s sense of whimsy and its comfort-food-with-flare mantra. Our waitress was personable and did a great job helping us choose our menu options. The pricing was certainly fair for the level of cuisine we were enjoying, and the casual atmosphere made for a relaxing late-summer night.
While we were tempted by the dessert options, we were too satiated to sample any more of Cure’s offerings that night.
On our return trip, we plan to try the fried dough, which is made with peanut butter and jelly. We trust the PB&J works just as well on a crusty piece of fried dough as it does with smoked pork ribs.
At least that’s what the kid in us says.