Oh, Gastón Acurio. You’re a superstar with 32 restaurants in 12 countries, so this probably means little to you, but on behalf of Chicago, please accept our apology. How ready we were to skewer you like an anticucho of beef heart for having the temerity to open an outpost of Tanta here in hopes of educating our city about your beloved Peru, as though you were addressing provincial rubes.

But your colorful, boisterous stunner in River North is just what we needed. It’s a clear and delicious introduction to a fine cuisine, one where lime-drenched seviches and flaky empanadas blend into a landscape that enfolds lively and unlikely flavors: could be Japanese (ahi tuna tiraditos with passion fruit and honey), Chinese (pork fried rice and vermicelli stirred in a sizzling stone bowl), or African (rib eye a lo pobre of wet-aged beef slathered in chorrillana sauce, topped with a fried egg, and sitting on a rice-and-bean pancake).

Your team demystifies it all and got us hooked on stiff pisco cocktails and the wondrous alfajor (a shortbread sandwich cookie filled with citrusy dulce de leche and drizzled with hot chocolate sauce). How wrong we were, Gastón. We’ll gladly eat our words.

Perfect for: Jaded restaurant-hoppers ready for a vibrant global refresh