We were skeptical when Peruvian hotshot chef Gastón Acurio opened a Chicago outpost in River North of all places. We figured it might go the way of Tony Hu’s Lao 18—an amalgamation that loses much in translation while trying too hard to be sexy. But Acurio means business. Most of the cooks and wait staff are Peruvian and all are knowledgeable and friendly. We were pleasantly shocked by the bursts of flavor in various ceviches, better-than-bibimbap chaufa aeropuerto fried rice and chicha morada, a purple corn, pineapple, cinnamon and cloves drink that trumps any of the cocktails.
118 West Grand, (312)222-9700, tantachicago.com
AUDIENCE CHOICE: Machu Picchu, 3856 North Ashland, (773)472-0471, machupicchuchicago.com
Best of Chicago 2013