A10 | Hyde Park, Chicago

Matthias Merges' new restaurant A10 is a diamond in Hyde Park's culinary rough

Our first thought upon entering A10: This place is gorgeous.

Our second: Chicago needs more restaurateurs like Matthias Merges.

No River North or Randolph Row for this guy. Instead, Merges has made his name by opening in unexpected, underdeveloped locations: a quiet corner north of Logan Square (Yusho), the first (and still only) cocktail boîte on the square (Billy Sunday), and now the first notable, chef-driven restaurant in the heart of Hyde Park.

The bar room at A10 (Photo: Kailley Lindman)

Flanked by serviceable restaurants and takeout joints, A10, with its Vadouvan-scented lentils and sophisticated cocktails, is a diamond in Hyde Park's culinary rough.

Merges and his chef, John Vermiglio (who moved south from Billy Sunday), mined France and Italy for inspiration, naming the restaurant for the autoroute stretching from Paris to Bordeaux and the autostrada that runs from Genoa to the French boarder. This translates to jet-black squiggles of fresh campanelle pasta with squid, prawns, mussels and clams ($24), and chicken liver mousse with marsala gelée and house-made Saltines ($8).

A10's dining room and cannoli soft serve (Photo: Kailley Lindman)

Cold-smoked ocean trout ($23) is demure on the plate but stuns in the mouth. It's the apotheosis of the "simple seafood dish" that neighborhood restaurants consider obligatory. The salmon-like fish is silken and subtly smoked, and the whipped potatoes are luxuriously buttery.

One could make a meal of sides, like those curried lentils with carrots ($7) or roasted cauliflower with a punchy pickled raisin vinaigrette ($7).

No matter the route, cannoli soft-serve, studded with pistachios and drizzled with salted caramel ($8), should be the destination.