Critics say neigh to horse served at Lawrenceville restaurant

It certainly was a course of a different color.

At a dinner Monday night at his nationally acclaimed Lawrenceville restaurant Cure, chef Justin Severino served a dish that contained horsemeat, drawing the ire of animal advocates online after pictures of the dish and the menu were posted on Cure’s Facebook page.

The dish, Le Cheval, which is French for “horse,” was the second course of a five-course menu as part of Mr. Severino’s semi-regular “Cure-ated” dinner series, which features guest chefs from around North America. Monday’s dinner featured guest chefs Scott Vivian and Nate Middleton of Toronto restaurants Beast and Home of the Brave, respectively. The horse was prepared in tartare (raw) style, with salt and vinegar chips, cured egg yolk and black garlic mayonnaise.

Several hundred people have commented on the pictures. Some were positive, but most negative.

A sampling:

“Wow. Serving up mammals that are generally smarter than some humans. You putting Hipster Tartare on the menu next? This is truly revolting. Thanks for the heads up. I will avoid your restaurants. I don’t care how “ethically” sourced your food is.”

And, conversely, “Best chef in Pittsburgh, and probably one of the biggest supporters of the humane and ethical treatment of animals — FYI Justin was a vegetarian for a while and then a sustainable pig farmer. As far as saying horse is unhealthy, that is simply not true.”

An online petition on calling for Gov. Tom Wolf to ban horse as a menu item in Pennsylvania restaurants had garnered more than 600 signatures as of late Thursday afternoon. The petition was created by Joy Braunstein, a former executive director of the former Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, who resigned from that position in February 2016 after a similar petition called for her removal.

Although extremely uncommon in the United States because of their status as companion, sporting and work animals, horses are frequently consumed in scores of Asian and European countries and have been for centuries. According to a 2013 Huffington Post article, “In 2007, Congress approved a bill that blocked the USDA from financing the inspection of horsemeat. Since horse slaughterhouses cannot operate without USDA inspections, the measure effectively banned the facilities. The bill lapsed in 2011.”

And while there are still no horse slaughter facilities in the U.S., the ASPCA website states that “Looking at data from 2012 to 2016, an average of 137,000 American horses are trucked over our borders each year to slaughter facilities in Mexico and Canada.”

Mr. Severino said in a statement through his public relations firm, “On Monday night we hosted a collaborative dinner with chefs from Canada, a Quebecois feast. One of the courses included horse tartare, which is traditional Quebecois. It was sourced from a sustainable horse farm in Alberta, Canada. This dish was available for one night only, and it is not part of the Cure menu.”

Opened on Butler Street in 2011, Cure has become the poster establishment for Pittsburgh’s dining renaissance. According to the restaurant’s website, Mr. Severino is a four-time James Beard Foundation award nominee for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic and a 2014 and 2015 winner of Food & Wine magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic.

In 2012, Cure was named one of the Top 50 Best New Restaurants by Bon Appetit magazine. Nearby sister restaurant Morcilla opened in December 2015, and Bon Appetit ranked it No. 4 in the country in its prestigious annual Best New Restaurants issue. It was also nominated for a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award in the national Best New Restaurants category.

Dan Gigler: [email protected]; Twitter @gigs412.