Chicago Restaurant Week coverage continues on with a stop at Tanta, the newish Peruvian fusion restaurant in River North. I’ve tried this Chinese/Japanese/Spanish influenced food before, but this meal was the first time I’d ever considered it cuisine. Tanta has elevated Peruvian food beyond the hole-in-the-wall experience I’ve had to date.
Since February is Pisco Sour month, we started the meal with this signature South American drink. The cocktail is very tart and cuts through the spicy food nicely. I’m not sure the original lime version would be as good on its own, though I think the passion-fruit could be enjoyed solo.
The large and wide-ranging menu at Tanta was overwhelming for hungry first-timers, so we turned them over to concentrate on the RW prix fixe menu. Since quinoa is a staple grain of the area, we started with the vegetarian Quinoa Causa. Comprised of lovely layers of yellow corn, avocado, and quinoa this appetizer included a surprisingly peppery sauce. It was a treat of textures and flavors that I don’t think I’ve seen duplicated anywhere.
The Cebiche Mixto was equally enjoyable. More yellow corn anchored the tart citrus that cooked the fresh seafood and thinly sliced red onions. Based on this, I want to go back and try Tanta’s version of nigiri to see how it compares with Japanese cuisine. Seafood seems to be something this restaurant excels at.
We filled up on the first course, which was accompanied by lightly fried plantain chips. It probably wasn’t the best plan as Peruvian food is hearty. Even so, the Lomo Saltado was so tender and rich, it was hard to stop dishing it up. The crispy, fluffy potatoes were a treat to dip in the sauce, too.
Almost as hearty was the Arroz Criollo, a yellow rice prepared in a wok with a variety of seafood. A green, peppery sauce layered on top gave the dish a richer character and nice bite. I loved both these dishes and want to go back for more.
By the time dessert came, we were stuffed. That did not stop us from polishing off the cheesecake, a creamy concoction topped with a passion-fruit flavored strip and raspberries. It was good, though not as good as Eli’s.
The better bet was Pie de Limon, which had a perfect balance between texture and flavor. The tangy lime-mint sorbet played off the creamy, whipped limed mousse. Crispy quinoa bits dotted each bite and the meringue pushed it over the edge. So good!
Once again Chicago Restaurant Week has done its job — I will be back to Tanta to explore more of the menu. How’s your CRW experience been? Share!
118 W Grand Avenue