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Nagrant, Kramer Dig Drinks, Not Dish at Masa Azul; More

Eater Chicago intern Katie Johnson contributed this article.

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Masa Azul [Photo: Martha Williams/TOC]

For his first review as the new Sun-Times restaurant critic, Michael Nagrant gave Masa Azul a shot this week. The new Logan Square spot advertising itself as Southwestern style is, to Nagrant, more reminiscent of "Frexican" fare, the bending of regional Mexican cuisine prepared using French technique. He felt that the food needs some work to stand up to the drink. So much so that Nagrant thinks the restaurant "launched one of the best drink programs in town", but that the food falls a little flat giving the overall experience a star and a half. While the dining menu has potential, Nagrant found it difficult to look past the "limp, warm, tasteless baby carrots" and "bland, under-salted green beans blanched to a U.S. Cellular Field-grass shade" served as a side to many of the entrees. [Sun-Times]

Julia Kramer had a similar experience at Masa Azul, where it seems, the staff realizes that when you serve tequila, diners will stay a while, perhaps even a long while, creating a two-hour wait on a Saturday night for Kramer. Not that she's complaining. While the drinks flying out of the bar "need some work," the Southwestern-infused menu shows "more potential than payoff". Unlike Nagrant, Kramer seems to have found the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, however. Particularly with the cheesy, robust potato cake found accompanying many of the entrees that "you'd have to hate yourself not to enjoy." [TOC]

Kate Schmidt checks out Matt Maroni's newest venture MorSo, which she said is a staggering difference from the portable fare available through Maroni's well known Gaztro-Wagon. It seems there were as many successes as there were disappointments. Some of the standouts include the crab cake, scallops with gnocchi, and clams with tortellini. And let's not forget, the bread service, including a "delightful" mix of jalapeño corn bread, miniature butter rolls and cinnamon-raisin crisps served with truffle-honey butter. Despite some of the main dishes "lacking in flavor" and the menu overall proving to be a little too "spendy" for the average diner, Schmidt cannot deny MorSo's charm. [Reader]

Michael Jordan's Steak House gets a glowing review from Phil Vettel. Let the analogies begin. Score! We are asked to ignore, for a moment, the advantage that everybody likes Mike. Vettel remarks how most steakhouses typically don't get to inventive with their preparation. Executive chef James O'Donnell, however, is "one of those rarities, a steakhouse chef who cooks". "We strive to make the best of every item," O'Donnell says. And based on Vettel's review, it appears like they do, and quite successfully at that. With "exceptional" wait staff, "even by steakhouse standards". [Trib]

Lisa Arnett and Renee Mailhiot remind us that there's more to the newly opened NYC transplant, Magnolia Bakery than just cupcakes. Owner Steve Abrams claims their banana pudding and cheesecakes will make you forget they were ever known for cupcakes. The real crowd pleaser, however, came in the form of the peppermint icebox cake, made from "chocolate wafers that become just the right consistency (not too crunchy, not too mushy) between layers of fluffy whipped cream. Arnett and Mailhiot give it a rating of "already hot," despite the frozen "to die for" dessert that was discovered. [Metromix]