When I was in Santiago, Chile for work in 2010, I was told that Astrid y Gaston was a top-rated restaurant and one of the best in town. Unfortunately, I was not able to go because of my work schedule. Then I started to research about the restaurant and chef Gaston Acurio, and realized that I HAD to make it to one of his restaurants. We were able to dine at La Mar in San Francisco a few years ago and were blown away with the taste and quality of the food. So when I heard that Chef Gaston Acurio was going to open a restaurant in Chicago, I was very excited and knew that I had to dine at the restaurant!
We went to Tanta on a Friday night, our “parents night out.” We had reservations at 7:15, and though restaurant was very busy, we were seated within 15 minutes of checking in. Our waiter appeared very busy and wasn’t able to provide us with a thorough description of the menu, but Charlie and I were able to order some good tasting food. And through the process, we got to understand all the cultural influences of Peruvian cuisine, which makes me love Peruvian food even more!
The restaurant provided us with a basket of fried plantains with some spicy dipping sauce. It was very addictive so I had to pace myself. If I ate the whole basket, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to finish my main dish. I started out with a Pisco Punch that had pineapple in it. It was very good and not too strong, so I was able to finish it. Charlie had a Burbon-based drink called “Smooth Criminal.”
For our starters, we ordered the “Nikei Cebiche” (or ceviche), which was ahi tuna with avocado, cucumber and tamarind. I have to admit, I love tamarind, especially in candy form. We were told by the waiter to include the avocado, onion, cucumbers and tamarind sauce all in one bite. I thought the size of the tuna was big but when I ate the ceviche, the tuna just melted in my mouth. The red onion was sweet and the tamarind sauce was perfection. All the flavors worked well together. I think I could’ve eaten another order of the cebiche.
We also ordered the “Clasica Causitas,” which were crab meat with avocado on top of whipped Peruvian potatoes. This dish surprised us as we had no idea what to expect. The crab and avocado was very good and the whipped potatoes were so smooth. I thought it was the perfect combination…and the egg was a great addition.
For our main dishes, we ordered from the traditional Peruvian entrees. I got the Arroz con Pato, which was the crispy duck leg confit over a bed of rice. The duck didn’t come with just any rice, the rice had huge corn pieces and lots of vegetables. The serving size was very generous…I had to take some home. I considered this dish to be like a comfort dish. Charlie ordered the Seco de Cordero, which was the braised lamb shank. Needless to say, Charlie loved it and the best part was that he said he didn’t have to use a knife to cut the meat as it just fell off the bone.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable meal. I am very happy that Chef Gaston Acurio decided to open a Chicago restaurant. We will definitely come back again…maybe with our friends next time.