Are you tired of charred brussels sprouts with prosciutto and a balsamic glaze? Do you want to slowly cut off both your ears with a butter knife any time a waiter starts to explain what "tapas style" is (for the record, they usually explain it wrong)? Do you think man buns have lasted one hot second longer than they should have? We agree. And Tanta does too.
Tanta is a breath of fresh, exotic air, and there is nary a man bun in sight. It’s different and exciting and gets your heart racing just looking at the dishes on the menu. By nature, Peruvian food is fusion. Without forcing a geography lesson upon you, do a quick Google Map search of Peru and you'll see it has mountains, a lengthy coastal region, a tropical rain forest, and covers a lot of ground, which is why Peruvian food is difficult to lump into one bucket. The menu incorporates regional specialties such as street food skewers or classic cebiches, but it also includes influences from Peru’s largest immigrant populations, specifically China, Japan, Spain, and Italy. That’s why you’ll find skirt steak nigiri or pork fried rice. Tanta keeps you on your toes.
Pro tip - cilantro is abundant in Peruvian cuisine, so for all you "cilantro tastes like soap" weirdos, we’d mention that fact to the waiter if you truly can’t eat around it (no judgement).
Tanta has a big enough menu that will let you hide in potatoes and chicken if you want, but go in with an open mind and expect to try something outside of your comfort zone. Beef heart skewers - check. Paiche aka Amazon river fish - check. Five different types of cebiche that will blow your mind - quintuple check. Go ahead, give yourself a pat on the back for being so adventurous and interesting. And if interesting isn’t enough, the food is also stunning with its rainbow colors plated artistically over earthy dishware. We’re pretty sure the dishware makes the food taste even better than it already does - science y’all.
Tanta maintains the high-end River North vibes, but also adds a South American pop to it, so the music is bumpin’ and the lighting is clubby, but the room is as colorful as the menu. You’ll need help working through the menu, and for beginners we recommend letting the waiter drive while you ride along. Tanta is for people who are willing to make the hike for some authentic eats, but in this case, you don’t have to trek too far. Buckle up, settle in, and grab yourself a pisco sour for the ride.
Fish, squid, and shrimp bathed in “leche de tigre,” which is a citrus juice marinade, and, yes, literally translates to “tiger milk.” It’s made freshly to order and is seriously refreshing. We’re pretty sure it’s illegal to go to a Peruvian restaurant and not order one of the cebiches, so just do it.
Take the same tiger milk from the cebiche, put in some big ole bay scallops, mutant large plump corn kernels, and sweet potatoes, and douse it in a creamy sauce. The citrusy, sweet, seafood-y dish takes you on a mini South American vacation. While it’s categorized under Peruvian style sashimi, it’s much more than a lump of fish.
If you get one thing at Tanta, make it this. Wagyu skirt steak and quail egg in a ponzu sauce over a bed of rice. Holy sh*t. It’s a starter and is only two small pieces, so get your own or regret it later.
The equivalent of Peruvian cornbread with mushrooms, corn, and raisins. It’s sweet, starchy, and so moist you can eat it with a spoon. Much like French fries with your burger, it’s a good sidekick for any entrée.
Three hunks of tender octopus tentacles over potatoes with a bit of chimichurri, a touch of crispy garlic, and finished with olive sauce. This dish falls into their “street food” category, and this tasty octopus dish should make the cut if you’re having trouble choosing only one.
Potatoes, crab, avocado, egg, tomato, and spicy sauce - these are a few of our favorite things. Tanta brings them together into a magical, creamy concoction that puts your regular ole mashed potatoes to shame.
Tanta calls this “fried rice,” which is the ultimate example of under- promising and over-delivering. A hot stone bowl is filled with vegetables, rice, and marinated pork belly. The bowl is sealed with a large shrimp omelette that locks in the heat, and a sweet chili sauce settles into the eggy folds as it's drizzled on top. They’ll let you admire the work before they decimate it with an enormous spoon and combine the layers of flavors. Some of the rice takes on a crunchiness reminiscent of a bibimbap, and the combo of textures is ideal. It’s a huge portion, and it tastes even better for your next-day leftovers.
A Peruvian style roasted chicken that you can get half or whole. Simple, but solid, and it's served with cannellini beans, rice and corn, criolla salad, potatoes, and a number of different sauces. It's not as exciting as the rest of the menu, but if you or anyone else aren't as adventurous, this is a good move.