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Cure’s Nostalgic Plates Will Suit Those In the Mood For a Retro Meal (Charleston City Paper)

If this were the first sentence of a sci-fi romance novel, then Cure would be a star-crossed time traveler. A holdover from simpler times, the restaurant’s round leather booths and Frank Sinatra soundtrack collude with the old school menu to provide a time capsule to 1961: oysters Rockefeller, steak tartare, and prime rib. If nostalgia is the goal, Cure is nailing it. However, one can’t help but worry about a new restaurant that feels so patently sentimental.

The Cure Rockefeller ($12) beckoned. If you’re not familiar with the traditional version, the dish offers fresh oysters topped with spinach or other greens, a Pernod-flavored cream sauce, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, all of which is then broiled until bubbly and hot. It’s the kind of thing someone would order on Mad Men. The Cure version is not that. Rather, this is the oyster dish for people who love cheese. Covered in thick bacon bits, onions, and a gruyère mornay, it’s essentially French onion soup on the half shell.

Although it’s clear the restaurant is going for upscale elegance, somewhere — perhaps in the vicinity of the dark wood paneling or the rustic chandelier ceiling fans — things veer a little vintage. The same can be said of the beef tartare ($16). Chopped raw beef arrives on a bed of shredded romaine and is accompanied by individual mounds of diced red onions, chopped hard-boiled eggs, capers, and dijon mustard, plus slices of thin, seasoned crostini. Although I prefer my tartare pre-assembled, after gathering a smattering of the ingredients on the delicate toast, the flavors were fine but lacked the salty-sour balance I was hoping for.

Happily, I found it in The Cure salad ($12). A generous portion of kale and romaine are tossed with a Champagne vinaigrette and topped with dried cherries, sweet onions, and marcona almonds. The lightly sweet, tart mixture is then garnished with pieces of char-grilled artichoke and battered and friend eggplant squares. Not just an inventive and original option for vegetarian diners, this is a darn good salad by any measure.

The fresh mozzarella and roma tomatoes ($12) salad, however? Oy. Plated atop shredded lettuce, five hard, half moons of mozzarella alternate with thin slices of Roma tomatoes and are drizzled with balsamic. The menu boasts house-pulled cheese, which somehow arrived just as dry, flavorless, and symmetrically round as something pulled from a package labeled “Polly-O.” Disappointing.

Service is a crap shoot. On my first visit, the waitress was enthusiastic and speedy, offering suggestions and keeping things moving. My immediate neighbors, however, had a different server and fared less well. As I lifted the first bite of oyster toward my mouth, a voice next to my table whispered, “We’ve been here over 45 minutes with no food.” Awkward. When the hour mark hit, their longing stares and Pavlovian drooling became uncomfortable in a “feed these people!” kind of way.

I held back the temptation to ask the guests, “Would you like some salad? Maybe they have some bread back there? Do you want me to ask? I think I have some Tic Tacs in my purse…”

Their entrees eventually arrived, so I was able to consider the Chicken Citron ($18) in peace. Billed by the waitress as a riff on chicken picatta, it is just that. Three dainty chicken tenderloins are served with angel hair pasta and a decadent lemony beurre blanc. It’s delicate yet rich and a viable option for anyone not into red meat. However, if steaks make you feverish, Cure has got, well, the cure. The Kansas City strip ($33) comes simply garnished with butter and a side of steak sauce. And anything more would have been unnecessary. Cooked as requested and incredibly moist, this is simple, satisfying, red-meat perfection.

The accompanying Brussels sprouts are also of a different era. Served lightly cooked and ensconced in a thick brown gravy, they were reminiscent of a poutine more than a vegetable. Similarly, the prime rib ($30) fell short on execution. Ordered medium rare, what arrived was quite a bit more cooked. However, when pointed out to our vegetarian waitress, she merely shrugged and stated, “I wouldn’t know.”

The attentive and affable owner soon stopped by, but our interaction made it clear this was the least-cooked slice they could deliver. The slab of meat is accompanied by a large, round scoop of intensely garlicky mashed potatoes and a bowl of creamed kale au gratin boasting a split pea color and a sauce-to-vegetable ratio of 2:1. Heavy-handed and old school all the way, one imagines Don Draper enjoying this meal along with a half-pack of cigarettes and some of the restaurant’s extensive bourbon collection.

Between the dishes and the clientele, Cure feels like a steakhouse that has weathered many decades without a single change to the menu. Perhaps I’m just not the target audience, but when a perfectly prepared steak and inventive salad are the goal, I’ve finally got a non-Halloween destination for my vintage leisure wear.