Chicagoans have come to depend on Tanta as a place to celebrate with family and friends over upscale Peruvian food and drinks. New Tanta executive chef Giancarlo Valera seeks to put his own stamp on the River North restaurant. A Peruvian native, Valera is working on creating new dishes to make Tanta better than before.
Valera comes to Tanta from Miami where he worked at La Mar, another restaurant from chef Gastón Acurio inside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. When Tanta opened in 2013, it was among Acurio’s first restaurants in America. Former Tanta chef Jesus Delgado has moved on to work at the La Mar in Qatar. La Mar, as the name should give away, is more seafood focused than Tanta.
Thanks to the corporate synergy, Valera is familiar with Tanta. He’s leaving classics like lomo saltado and arroz chaufa alone. But he’s also testing out new specials currently as he develops a new fall menu. He mentioned new dishes like patarashca (fish steamed in banana leaf with bacon). He described how he wants to wow and surprise customers table side.
He’ll also rework the ceviches, a Tanta staple. He wants some of the cooking to remind him of the flavors he enjoyed as a teenager growing up in Callao, a city just seven miles west of Lima. He described his grandmother cooking empanadas and stews. He wants to extend that warm feeling into Tanta.
This is Valera’s first time in Chicago and he’s been here for month. Don’t worry, he’s already been warned about the frosty winters, but he’s still a fan. He feels Chicago’s dining scene is a leap up from Miami.
“There’s a lot of hungry people around,” Valera said. “And that’s the most important thing.”
Valera’s new Tanta menu should slowly roll out by the fall. But stop in before then and order a special for a preview.