Here’s a few more 2006 standouts, courtesy of Reader contributor David Hammond.
Oaxaca Tamal at Maxwell Street Market (or Tamales and Tube Sox: Together At Last!) I’ve long adored the big, rectangular banana-leaf-wrapped tamales done Oaxaca-style: lush with masa, steaming sweet, and savory with chicken and green sauce. The Oaxaca Tamal stall is usually next door to another vendor selling white tube sox. A tamale is about $3 and 10 pairs of quality hosiery are only $5, so you can warm your belly and your feet and still have change from your ten-spot for the bus.
Onion tart at Koda. Less a traditional Alsatian preparation than a pizza with pancetta, the piggy goodness of these cuties is balanced by sweet onion, all browned together in a simple open-faced pie. For light eaters all you’d need is one of these and a glass of red wine.
Lobster ravioli at Bacchanalia. Some guy in the neighborhood lovingly enfolds seafood in soft pasta blankets. They’re served with some butter and vodka sauce with slight bite, a brilliant prelude to dinner at this enduring neighborhood joint. No breading, no filler, just lumps of lobster nestled in noodle. Nice.
Sautéed mushrooms at Triad. So simple–just shitake, oyster, and button mushroom fast-cooked in oil with garlic and sake–yet this dish is so unexpected and so satisfying. A first round of fungi is a fine way to balance with an earthy bass note the ethereal goodness of raw fish done-up fancy iat this South Loop place.
Black cod at Sola. Floating on the fine line between the raw and the undercooked, this cod (arguably the world’s all-time favorite sea creature) is long-term marinated, flakey, preternaturally moist, and hinting of miso and rice vinegar. Many Chicago reviewers have praised this dish and I agree: it rocked.
Mussels in pesto at Fiorentino’s Cucina Italiana. Lightly sprayed with pesto, these plump bivalves have deep tang that stands up to the garlic and basil. I’ve been eating Italian food for over half a century and I never experienced this flavor combo before: it was excellent. My dining partner thought the gnocchi here was the best she had ever had (which is saying a lot).