Discover the Tanta-lizing Tastes of Peru

Over the last several years Peruvian food has gained more and more recognition. As diners’ tastes become more gastronomically sophisticated this multi-cultural cuisine offers a surprising array of flavors that both challenges and satisfies. Tanta, opened in River North by celebrity chef Gaston Acurio in 2013, showcases the diversity of both the ingredients and the preparation that makes Peruvian the original fusion cuisine.

The restaurant is an exploration of the influences that make up Peruvian food, which literally span the globe. The cuisine reflects a history of both the indigenous population of Peru as well as the many ethnicities of its immigrants, including Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Italian.

In Tanta Chef Acurio and Chicago Chef Jesus Delgado have created a menu that travels from the Pacific Ocean to the Andes Mountains, from the Amazon to the desert. With Peru’s lengthy coast line there’s a multitude of seafood options, but there’s also a hearty selection of meat. Peru is the birthplace of the potato so you can expect many varities and preparations of the tuber, as well as other native produce like the aji amarillo pepper and lucuma fruit.

I was invited to explore this expansive cuisine with a tour of the menu, which is almost like a glossary of the country’s cooking techniques. 


Tanta’s cebiche is made fresh to order. The fish is briefly marinated in citrus juices. In addition to quickly curing the seafood and adding a tangy zest the marinade, known in Peru as leche de tigre, is reportedly a hangover cure.


The Peruvian version of sashimi, Tiratido is fresh fish that’s sliced and served with a spicy sauce. The “chalaco” is scallops and shrimp that’s served with sweet potatoes, red onions, and choclo, a large kernel corn that’s native to Peru.


An anticucho is street food. Similar to a shish kebab, it’s typically served on a skewer. Tanta’s pulpo anticucho is a beautiful display of octupus, chimichurri, and potato. It’s the best octopus I’ve had in Chicago, nudging Stetson’s char-grilled octopus from the top spot.

Niguiris Nikei

This section features Tanta’s combinations of Japanese and Peruvian traditions. It was my first glimpse into the meatier side of the cuisine, with a tender, flame-seared skirt steak topped with a perfectly prepared quail egg over rice.

Chefs Having Fun

This next dish was from the entree portion of the menu, which is where Chefs Acurio and Delgado can have some fun, as the title says. Dishes include cebiche de pato, which is grilled duck breast, warm aji amarillo leche de tigre, cilantro rice, avocado-radish salad, and chicharrón – pork belly confit, tamarind barbecue glaze, sweet potato purée, seasonal salad. We dove into the estofado de cordero, a savory serving of braised lamb hind, aji panca & red wine reduction, quinoa polenta, wild mushrooms, and crispy organic kale.

Del Chifa

This section of the menu highlights the influence that Chinese immigrants have had on Peruvian dining. One of the most popular dishes is the chaufa aeropuerto. This is basically pork fried rice, but with a unique presentation. It’s tossed table-side in a bowl so hot it fries the rice right at the table. Tip: save some for leftovers. It gets even better the second time around.



Even the dessert menu introduces new ingredients and flavors. We finished up dinner with two unique dishes. The mousse de chocolate fortunato is Peruvian chocolate mousse topped with crispy quinoa. The duo de alfajores features vanilla & chocolate shortbread cookies, a dulce de leche center, and lucuma ice cream. Lucuma, as mentioned above, is a fruit that’s indigenous to Peru, and the ice cream surprisingly and subtly reminds you of butterscotch.


Drinks are also not left behind on this excursion. Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, is featured prominently on the cocktail menu. They’ve recently rolled out some new drinks, including a cocktail featuring rocoto ice, a red ball seasoned with the spicy rocoto pepper, so the drink heats up as the ice melts. And do not miss out on the coffee. I was pleasantly surprised when my after-dinner cup was topped with crema, a treat often expected only with espresso.

A visit to Tanta is a culinary journey to another land, rich with both familiar and unfamiliar flavors, scents, and textures. A meal there is an evening well spent and one that will elevate your dining expectations.

Tanta is located at 118 W Grand Ave, Chicago IL.






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