By Rolanda Stinson
We all know that on the coast seafood is king and local Ecuadorian classics like ceviche and encebollado are staples here in Manta. But I hope that if my food articles are showing you anything, it's that Manta has a little more to offer when it comes to international food. Over the last few months, I've written about Argentinian, Mexican, and Italian food here in Manta. With this issue, I will continue with the international food theme and introduce you to Peruvian food. Yes, there’s a Peruvian restaurant here in Manta, Tacu Tacu.
Tacu Tacu is located on the famous Restaurant Row, on the corner of Avenida Umiña 2 and Calle 32. Tacu Tacu boasts itself as a peruvian fusion restaurant and has been in Manta for around four years. It is a favorite here and is enjoyed by locals and expats. Their classic flavors of Peru are rooted in indigenous traditions and reflect Peru’s multicultural history. Peruvian culture is definitely on display when walking up to the restaurant.
Tacu Tacu proudly displays the red and white flag of Peru in front of the restaurant and the outdoor seating area. I love that the weather in Manta allows many restaurants to have outdoor seating and Tacu Tacu takes full advantage of that with a large outdoor space. Inside is very cozy and nicely decorated, with a largely stocked bar in the center of the restaurant. The staff are all dressed nicely in white shirts and black slacks and are ready to serve you.
The menu at Tacu Tacu is expansive and upon first looking at it, I definitely saw some Peruvian dishes that I love. And I was not at all surprised to see coastal Ecuadorian dishes that have come to be favorites as well. The restaurant name, Tacu Tacu, is actually the name of a Peruvian dish. It’s on the menu in several varieties. Tacu Tacu, the dish, is red beans and rice mashed together like a casserole. The restaurant offers the tacu tacu dish with either seafood or lomo salteado (another famous Peruvian dish). Lomo salteado is sirloin steak chopped into pieces and sauteed with onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Traditionally it is served in a gravy with white rice and fries and is definitely a menu option to try at this restaurant. However, on this visit, I decided to try their version of rice and beans (tacu tacu) with the lomo salteado because I couldn’t resist two delicious Peruvian dishes in one hearty meal. This dish had the sirloin served with the veggies and gravy, the rice and bean mash on the side, and a fried egg on top. It was delicious with so many wonderful flavors and textures.
Other notable Peruvian dishes on the menu are causa and ceviche. Yes, Peru has their own version of ceviche and it’s not much different than Ecuadorian ceviche. Their ceviche is just a little spicier because they add aji. Also, there’s a little crunch because maiz tostada (toasted corn) is also added to the bowl. Of course, it’s served with chifles and aji on the side. Causa is an interesting dish because Peruvians think of it as a potato casserole. To me, it seems more like a potato stack. The dish consists of a thick layer of mashed potatoes on the bottom, topped with a mixture of seafood, and the top layer is more mashed potatoes. It’s usually accompanied with a sauce and a nice garnish on top. It is a really pretty dish and is a must-try for potato lovers.
The Tacu Tacu chefs definitely gain inspiration from flavors all over the world. The menu has a little bit of Italian with some spaghetti, fettucini, and risotto dishes. I have tried the lomo con spaghetti al pesto. The lomo steak was grilled to perfection and served alongside a heaping portion of pesto spaghetti. Very good! There’s also inspiration from Ecuador, Manta specifically, with chicharron de pescado (fried fish nuggets) and camotillo (whole fried fish). The camotillo was cooked the same way as they cook it in most restaurants in Manta, breaded and fried whole. They added an array of seafood around it, covered it in a yellow sauce and served it with white rice on the side. Peruvian aji is usually yellow and I’m pretty sure this sauce was an aji and garlic sauce. It was very rich in flavor and complimented the textures of the dish. The final dish I tried was the chicharron de pescado, which was fried fish nuggets served with yuca fries and a salad. French fried potatoes are preferred by most here, but if you ask me, yuca fries are a strong contender.
Tacu Tacu is an excellent and unassuming treasure amongst the local restaurants here. With great food, international flavors, and a relaxing atmosphere, Tacu Tacu is definitely a go-to place for when you are in Manta.