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Gastón Acurio In Peru

Tanta's cebiche, photo by lee kleinLomito saltado at Tanta, photo b lee kleinTanta's front room, photo by lee kleinTanta's crabmeat causa, photo by lee kleinTanta's anticuchera chicken, photo by lee kleinTanta's 'Gran Combo' photo by lee kleinTanta's desserts, photo by lee kleinTanta's cakes, photo by lee kleinJetBlue's window view on trip to Lima, photo by lee klein

Renowned Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio is generally credited for paving the way for Cocina Novoandina, a bold reworking of indigenous foods of the Amazon and Sacred Valley. Acurio’s La Mar in the Mandarin Oriental Miami mimics his cebicheria of the same name in Lima, Peru, but his signature restaurant in that city is Astrid & Gastón, where guests dine on multiple-hour tasting menus of a highly creative nature. When I was invited on a JetBlue-sponsored trip last year (to highlight its non-stop service from Ft. Lauderdale to Lima), a third restaurant of Gastón’s was on our itinerary: Tanta. (see also, from the same trip, Todd Erickson In Peru).

Tanta's front room, photo by lee klein

Worldwide, Acurio is associated with over 30 dining establishments, many of them highly stylized, upscale restaurants such as Miami’s La Mar. By comparison, Tanta is plain as bread – which is what the word means in Quechua. And what I mean is that it’s a less formal, neighborhood-type restaurant that draws a bustling business crowd each day for lunch, with basic fare familiar to anyone who has eaten in a Peruvian restaurant (lomo saltado, aji de galina, anticuchos and so forth). It also represents a more affordable Acurio than the norm.

What follows are some photos of dishes sampled at Tanta. The rendition of each classic was faultless.

Lomito saltado at Tanta, photo b lee klein

Lomito saltado: Juicy strips of beef tenderloin stir-fried with onions, tomatoes, potatoes and chilis.

Tanta's anticuchera chicken, photo by lee klein

Anticuchón: Anticuchera chicken accompanied by roasted potatoes, buttered-and-herbed corn, hot pepper sauces and hunacayo.

Tanta's 'Gran Combo' photo by lee klein

El Gran Combo: Roasted chicken, rice, fried plantains, and papa a la huancaína (yellow potatoes with a punchy yellow sauce made from ají Amarillo and white cheese).

Tanta's crabmeat causa, photo by lee klein

Lima Causa: Lump crab filling between patties of mashed yellow potatoes. 

Tanta's cebiche, photo by lee klein

Corvina cebiche: The fish misted with citrus and topped with the notoriously robust rocoto pepper that a fellow journalist impulsively popped into his mouth and swallowed -- an action that made him suffer greatly, even after many frantic gulps of water.

Tanta's cakes, photo by lee klein

The cake in the center contained chocolate mousse and lucuma (Andean fruit) mousse.

Tanta's desserts, photo by lee klein

On the left, everyone’s favorite, the passion fruit tartlet. 

JetBlue's window view on trip to Lima, photo by lee klein

View from JetBlue's window during flight to Lima.