Thai Dang (pictured below, far right) is a brilliant culinary translator, a Rosetta Stone of a chef. His Vietnamese cooking manages to be at once absolutely true to its origins and wholly at home in an American bistro setting. With just a few tweaks to presentation, menu description, and ingredients, he finds the universal in each dish he makes. Order chopped clams with chile and roasted peanut, spoon it over rice crackers, and enjoy it as a cocktail bite. That dish, hen xuc banh da, is a popular street food from Hue. Beef rolls in betel leaf, fish sauce chicken wings, and the showstopper whole fried fluke with lettuce wraps all have their origins in tradition, yet in Dang’s hands they are as fresh and contemporary as anything in Chicago.