The oysters are the highlight at Bow & Stern but the rest of the menu can't keep up, according to Mike Sula. The "briny, pump" mollusks are in the "prime of life," with the "aftertaste of honeydew" and "so salty and metallic they taste like cold blood."
Unfortunately, everything else falters such as "tough, undercooked" pork belly with two "mismatched" seared scallops, the entire dish "oversweetened." A bowl of cioppino bears "none of the saffron or anise notes associated with this classic dish" while a baked oyster offering bathing in "Mexican chorizo butter" has a "salty, porky brew that obliterate[s] any of the oysters' individuality." Desserts are more successful and include a "powerfully citric" key lime pie and molten dulce de leche cake. [Reader]
Count Amy Cavanaugh as another Cicchetti fan, where the plates coming out of the kitchen are fun and delicious. The pork cracklins are "so good [she wants] to order a bag to take home," while roasted sunchoke and baby artichokes are "sweet and earthy." A seafood stew with prawns, lobster, mussels and octopus is a "glorious bowl," and gnocchi served with celery root, braised pork, pear, dill and chestnut crisps makes Cavanaugh "rethink how [she] sees gnocchi." A rare miss includes "underdone" meatballs but is offset by a "creamy, not-too-sweet" cannoli dessert.
At Parts & Labor, "everything is right except the main dish," writes Cavanaugh. The double cheeseburger has "no char, no salt and no meaty flavor" and isn't even worth finishing, but fried giardiniera with sriracha mayo is spicy and has an "ideal balance between coating and vegetable." For dessert, a root beer float is enhanced with a shot of Fernet-Branca, which adds "some bitterness and depth and [is] a welcome upgrade to the float." [TOC]
"A10 is not ready to be Hyde Park's savior," writes Jeff Ruby. There's a lot to like including an "uncompromising" boudin noir, an "assertive" Caesar-inspired salad with Great Lakes smelt, and a "fun" deconstructed cannoli soft-serve ice cream dessert. But problems present themselves in "oversalted dishes" and the homemade pastas like an "oily, starchy" orecchiette with rapini, anchovies and Calabrian chilies "need work."
Azzurra is a retread of Andersonville favorite Anteprima "but without the reliably satisfying food." The main criticism being that "blandness taints" much of the menu, with the kitchen "underseasoning dishes until they fade almost into nothingness." There are "flashes of lightning" here and there, like dates stuffed with creamy Gorgonzola and wrapped in crisp pancetta, and the simple orecchiette that "leaves A10's in the dust." A starter of Brussels sprouts consisting solely of those "terrific crunchy" leaves is enjoyable, but a "depressingly unimaginative" cheese plate ends the meal on a disappointing note. [Chicago]