Now that I’ve seen the website for Curate and read about this rave-about place for fine dining, I don’t know how I could have almost walked past without even knowing about this unique new restaurant.
It was all quite accidental. My husband and I were meandering down Biltmore Avenue (Asheville, NC) in search of art galleries when we spied a pig in a window! And then an interesting name — Curate — with the pronunciation prominently displayed! I said, Let’s go in there for just a minute – OK? – to see if we want to eat here tonight.
And that’s when we saw Tyler (immediately, he introduced himself) carving Jamon Iberico!
Tyler began telling us about this delicacy — acorn fattened Spanish ham — and other menu items we could order from the restaurant he so obviously loves!
He said Chef Katie Button (Cornell graduate, master’s from L’Ecole Centrale in Paris) abandoned her major (chemical and biomolecular engineering), followed her passion for cooking, and eventually became a service manager at Ferran Adria’s famous restaurant in Spain — El Bulli! With the support of her parents and fiancé, she opened this now award-winning restaurant in Asheville — naming it Curate, meaning “cure yourself.” You can come here and allow others to take care of you so that you, in turn, feel cared for. And it works. On all levels.
We immediately asked for a reservation only to be told that they were booked nights in advance. We could take a chance at getting seated at the bar — which is where we landed that very night — a front row seat watching masterful preparations in the open kitchen and listening to the banter between servers and customers!
It’s a tapas bar — you order and share small plates. Brown paper menus greet you, accompanied by a sleeve of silverware and list of nuestros vinos (their selected Spanish wines).
We made friends with people on either side. The couple to our right were sharing Ensalada de Tomate Yatun — a Kumato tomato salad with preserved Spanish Bonito del Norte tuna and black olives, topped with greens from Jolley Farms! Wow!
Mary Hill, to our left, suggested we start with what we came for: the Tabla de Jamon — a selection of three cured hams.
And yes, we could tell the difference once we tasted each one that this affable server, Daniel, presented. From left to right: Jamon Serrano Fermin (dry cured Spanish ham); Jamon Iberico Fermin (cured ham from black-footed Iberico pigs); and the one that brought us in as Tyler was shaving it at the counter — Jamon Iberico de Bellota (the top shoulder cut from acorn fattened free-range pigs).
While we waited for our other plates, I snapped a picture of Tabla Dequesos (Spanish cheeses) ready to serve.
And that’s when I sighted my favorite “junker,” Mike Wolfe of American Pickers, one of the shows I watch on the History Channel! It was all I could do to leave him alone to enjoy his dinner at Curate without being hounded by a gushy fan! I resorted to snapping this picture from across the room.
Meanwhile, our small plates arrived, and I was able to focus on presentation AND interesting taste!
First, Berenjenas la Taberna (fried eggplant drizzled in Wild Mountain Apiaries honey) — fork tender with just a hint of sweetness . . .
followed by Setas al Jerez (mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with a hint of sherry) . . .
and finally, according to the menu, the “number one tapa in Asheville”: Gambas al Ajillo (sauteed shrimp and sliced garlic)!
We had no room for Esparragos Blancos (white asparagus tossed in a lemon tarragon vinaigrette), but watching the preparation of this dish qualified as entertainment — several steps with a voila! ending.
Carefully, chefs prepared desserts like these artfully drizzled beauties that we saw from our stools at the bar. (It’s fun looking over chef shoulders!)
And, then . . . tah-dah! Tyler surprised us by showing off one of their most intensely prepared desserts — an almost-transparent Buenuelo to top anything we’d ever seen! By now, we were friends, you know, and he wanted to show us everything in this classy eatery!
We’re definitely not among the first to be enamoured of Curate‘s cuisine and service. This relatively new-to-Asheville restaurant has won the Best of WNC Top Chef Award and mention in Southern Living magazine as a go-to destination!
But for BIG TASTE on small plates, ya gotta go there yourself!
Eating Spanish tapas just may cure yourself!
11 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/82/1577446/restaurant/Curate-Asheville”><img alt=”Cúrate on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/link/1577446/minilink.gif” style=”border:none;padding:0px;width:130px;height:36px” /></a>
If you want to read about another Asheville restaurant we loved, check out Tupelo’s a Honey at https://ohtheplaceswesee.com/2012/05/30/tupelos-a-honey/