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    Post #1 - November 7th, 2013, 9:59 am
    Post #1 - November 7th, 2013, 9:59 am Post #1 - November 7th, 2013, 9:59 am
    I was at the opening of A10, a new restaurant in Hyde Park started by Matthias Merges (Yusho) on Tuesday. It seems like the kind of place that will be a great hot-date spot for students in the University, and it may be able to start the process of making Hyde Park a little more destination-worthy in terms of restaurants.

    My party of four had a few starters (salt cod croquette, chicken liver mouse, lentils [okay lentils are more of a side than a starter but I wasn't feeling very adventurous]), a few cocktails (Corpse Reviver #2, Hennesey, Manhattan), and a few mains (seared maine scallop, pekin duck breast w/ confit, salmon, pheasant agnolotti). All of the starters were pretty great, and my companions reported that their entrees (scallop/duck/salmon) were good as well. They appeared to be cooked perfectly, to my eyes, at least. I thought that the pheasant was a little overcooked in the agnolotti but to be honest I've never had pheasant before, so maybe it's supposed to be as it was. It included an odd root vegetable that I'd never had before, which, looking back at the menu, was probably "salsify", which I had taken as a verb. It wasn't a taste I was expecting, but it went pretty nicely with the rest of the plate.

    There were pretty serious service and preparation issues. The wait for cocktails and main courses was well beyond what I'd consider acceptable, even for an opening. The staff recognized the problems, however, and comped a substantial portion of the meal, as well as another round of cocktails (gin and tonics, which I was surprised to read from the menu were on draft. If I understood the manager correctly, it was carbonated in the barrel it was being poured from, but I might have misheard that) as well as two desserts, a creme brulee that might wife thought might have been the best she's ever had, and a cannoli soft serve, which tasted like cinnamon toast crunch in the best way possible. I thought that the creme brulee was good, too, but it seemed less brulee'd than you usually see. The preparation mis-step is that they were out of the ingredients for two of the cocktails by the time we arrived (~8 pm), which seems pretty surprising, and that despite a braised rabbit entree being on the online menu, it wasn't present on the menu that day, which is a little disappointing.

    Overall I think it was a pretty positive experience despite the mistakes. It's not the chef's first rodeo, so I'd bet that any service issues will disappear in a few weeks, when I'll probably try again. It's exciting that a lot of new restaurants are finally coming to Hyde Park. Just the next day, actually, a chipotle opened up right next door, though Chipotle may not necessitate it's own thread.

    1462 E 53rd St
    Chicago, IL 60615
    (773) 288-1010
  • Post #2 - May 21st, 2015, 12:39 pm
    Post #2 - May 21st, 2015, 12:39 pm Post #2 - May 21st, 2015, 12:39 pm
    As a former long-time Hyde Park resident (now living on the North Side), I'd been excited to try A10 for some time, but hadn't gotten around to it since its late 2013 opening.

    I saw on Yelp that it had fairly mixed reviews so I wasn't expecting too much. Fortunately, I was very pleasantly surprised with my experience there. I went with a friend last night for a spontaneous no-special-occasion nice dinner out. The ambience is upscale but not pretentious and welcoming.

    I had two drinks (both excellent) and we shared the following small plates:

    Focaccia with roasted garlic, balsamic, evoo, and thyme: This was five fairly long, thin strips of freshly baked focaccia with a side dipping plate of roasted garlic in a vinaigrette. The focaccia was warm and the dipping sauce was delicious. Really good.

    Sliced kohlrabi and apple salad with grated manchego, walnuts, and mint: this was quite mild but still tasty. There was maybe some kind of light application of a citrusy vinaigrette or maybe the tartness just came from the apples. It wasn't knock-your-socks off but still a solid dish. My friend liked this one even more than I did.

    Steak tartare with roasted peppers, pickled mushrooms, and pecorino chip: this was a decently-sized "patty" of steak tartare & peppers with a few cute tiny pickled mushrooms and potato chips as a garnish. Overall this was quite tasty but I felt like the patty was a little light on the steak and heavy on the peppers -- I would have preferred it a little meatier but I didn't feel like I was ripped off. Overall still quite solid. The "pecorino chips" tasted like kettle potato chips.

    Spring pea soup with pickled garlic, creme fraiche, and pea shoots -- very good and excellently balanced, the creme fraiche added a savory/dairy element that went really well with the fresh peas. The waitstaff was happy to divide up one soup into two smaller pours for me and my friend. One of the highlights.

    Goat cheese raviolo with egg -- This was an interesting one -- it was a single large raviolo with an egg baked on top. This was the weakest dish we had but it was still pretty good, just not amazing. The egg was a nice balance to the pasta, but the goat cheese wasn't as flavorful as I think it ought to have been -- it tasted like a chevre mixed with a ricotta.

    Creamsicle Panna Cotta -- The best dish. A good-sized portion of vanilla panna cotta with a valencia orange gel/marmalade top. Beautifully presented and totally delicious.

    The service was prompt, attentive, but not overwhelming. For the two of us the total after tax and tip was just under $100. Looking forward to going back!
  • Post #3 - May 21st, 2015, 11:57 pm
    Post #3 - May 21st, 2015, 11:57 pm Post #3 - May 21st, 2015, 11:57 pm
    The current offerings are the best showing (in my unfortunately frequent experience) so far for A10, but I still find the menu concept baffling for the neighborhood. I do like that tartare and focaccia (but at Gaetano's the superior carpaccio is less expensive and the superior focaccia gratis). There are few accessible small plate sharing pricepoints; at many places around town of this aspiring quality there are shareable $6s-11s aplenty, and here the soup and salad items are tiny and dear, and the "Roman pizza" just a slab of reheated sheet pizza with some toppings thrown on. They'd do better buying a sheet of D'amato's, which they could still offer 1/4 the cost after hitting it with marjoram and creme fraiche and fairy dust. They've usually had one monochromatic "value" pasta at $12 or $14, with everything else starting at $20. Meats and fish, north of a Jackson, not sized for sampling around.

    If service were spectacular or dining environment designed for food-focused comfort - volume, lighting, and tableware commensurate - I could see it, but this is a dark, oppressively loud, casually staffed, batch cocktail room where it's neither possible to develop a reasonable menu for one at the bar, or a friendly sharing of small plates like at Avec or Publican or Girl and the Goat or The Dawson. Even Ruxbin has $5 frites ($10 at A10). Yusho Hyde Park has similar service issues but much better entry points in price and quantity with the same quality ingredients. Promontory has an intelligible theme and much more original space, and shareable portions even if execution is variable. They have a corner on the market with reasonably late hours and quick (and boring) draft cocktails (non-draft are better, but trend sweet), or I would not expect them to survive.
  • Post #4 - March 20th, 2017, 9:57 am
    Post #4 - March 20th, 2017, 9:57 am Post #4 - March 20th, 2017, 9:57 am
    The one thing I have heard about A10 with absolute consistency since they opened, is how inconsistent they are. So we approached our first visit with a wee bit of trepidation and were happily surprised by a very good meal (with a couple of quibbles) and very good service in a relaxed atmosphere commensurate with the upscale-but-still-basically-neighborhood vibe of the place.
    We were there fairly early on Sunday and there were only about 4 other tables going in the fairly large room. As dusk settled I found the room comfortably dim but not oppressively under-lit.
    Although our waitress opened with the dreaded "Have you dined with us before?", which always induces a fight-or-flight response from me, I was quickly set at ease by a brisk, informative spiel touching local sourcing and what components are made in-house and therefore likely to vary a bit from expectations (e.g., tonic in cocktails), without any lily-gilding cuteness or gush or otherwise affected affect.
    We ate lightly but enjoyed all of it. My cocktail had a whimsical name but was essentially a bourbon Manhattan with a touch of orange. Pleasant, if not special. Mrs. B. found her daiquiri bracing and enjoyable and not too sweet.
    Roasted mushroom soup with a little pile of duck confit in the center was delicious. I very nearly cancelled my main and tried to order a bucket of the crispy, crackly, roasty duck. Mrs. B. found her salmon perfectly roasted on a tasty bed of fregola (which I mistook for wheat berries), Swiss chard, and a couple of other components.
    The campanelle pasta with braised lamb shoulder, leak and thyme was perfectly done, and assertively thymed, with a generous amount of lamb scattered around. Some might have found it too salty, but I like salt and enjoyed it very much.
    While there is a brief "small plates" section, they don't really do starters, and I rather wish they would. Some shareable savories that would go down well with cocktails or the first glass of wine. If not that, then I wish they would at least plunk some bread on the table with a bit of bean puree or some such. There is an somewhat odd "For the Table" section with only three items: fries, focaccia, and olives. I wish there was a bit more.
    Temperatures---Both of my dishes (soup and pasta) arrived just barely warm enough to avoid a complaint, rapidly cooling from there.
    And yet, the pasta, while not really hot, also seemed to have suffered from just a bit too long under a heat lamp. It was the sort of dish that can take it, but with very little pressure on the kitchen at the moment, no reason not to time things a bit better.
    I can't imagine A10 being a 'destination' spot, given what Chicago has to offer in nearly every neighborhood, but I'm glad to have it 3 blocks from my house and would not hesitate to bring guests there when looking for a step up from Snail Thai, Cedar's, et. al.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #5 - July 2nd, 2018, 12:59 pm
    Post #5 - July 2nd, 2018, 12:59 pm Post #5 - July 2nd, 2018, 12:59 pm
    A10, Matthias Merges’ Hyde Park Restaurant, Closes After Five Years ... ter-closed
    Hors D'oeuvre: A ham sandwich cut into forty pieces.
    - Jack Benny