Five nights out of seven, I’m dining out for work, enjoyment, and to fulfill some sadomasochistic need. That averages to 25 plates of food to try every week. Sadly, the Tribune does not have enough newsprint to document all the great dishes I’ve sampled, so this morning’s Ten@10 includes recent restaurant favorites rescued from my notebook.
Octapodaki Skaras at Pegasus
Charcoal-grilled octopus, disarmingly tender, with the standard-issue olive oil, lemon and oregano. Sometimes the simplest, most unadorned dishes are the most satisfying.
130 S. Halsted St. 312-226-3377
Ducktrap River Smoked Salmon at Dirk’s Fishmarket
It’s smoked salmon with the raw texture of Nova lox, thanks to a cold smoking process that imbues the fish with the sweet smoke of cherry, oak, maple and apple.
2070 N. Clybourn Ave., 737-404-3475
Fried Chicken at Dee’s Place
A gem of a soul food restaurant in Wicker Park with a terrific house fried chicken. Thin, crisp, crackly skin from the lightest of flour dredges.
2114 W. Division St., 312-348-6117
Chicken Charga at Sabri Nihari
More crispy bird, this time a Pakistani take on Devon. A chicken is battered in chickpea flour, then fried whole. There’s tactile pleasure in ripping the spicy chicken apart at the table.
2502 W. Devon Ave., 773-465-3272
Curry and Cheese-Flavored French Fries at Gabutto Burger
Ordinary but decent-enough shoestring fries are transformed to Japanese novelty after a dusting of curry and cheese powder.
100 E. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights, 847-472-8855 (Inside Mitsuwa Marketplace)
Crab-Pork Soup Dumplings (Xiaolong bao) at Tao Ran Ju
Since we’re not in Flushing, this will have to do. These delicate, explosive broth bags might be the finest Shanghai soup dumplings in a city with few options.
2002 S. Wentworth Ave., 312-808-1111
Lamb Burger at Vincent
If mussels don't do it for you, Vincent can make a name with its hulking and sensational lamb burger, draped with melted Dutch edam cheese and sweet roasted tomatoes.
1475 W. Balmoral Ave., 773-334-7168
Pork Egg Rolls at Ba Le
At the risk of being shunned by my fellow Chinese, I’d argue the Vietnamese do the best egg rolls in the world. Nuoc cham on the side is compulsory — chile-lime fish sauce.
5014 N. Broadway St., 773-561-4424; 2141 S. Archer Ave., 312-528-6967
Sopa Azteca at Topolobampo
I don't usually ask for recipes from chefs, but there have been two exceptions. Rick Bayless’ take on the venerable chicken tortilla soup was one of them.
445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434