Taste of Tunisia

November 17, 2011

Taste of Tunsia's brika is filled with potatoes, capers, tuna, parsley and egg.

When my husband and I experiment with new foods, we often wind up comparing them to items we’ve eaten before: “This crab bisque is almost as good as your mom’s,” or “These beignets remind me of fried dough.” But Tunisian food — which we tried for the first time at Taste of Tunisia (2313 Wilson Blvd., Arlington) — leaves us analogy-less.

I bet the North African cuisine is new to you, too; Taste of Tunisia, which opened in September in the cafe formerly occupied by Chez Manelle, says it’s the area’s first Tunisian eatery. Baya Stiti, a former chef at the Tunisian Embassy, helms the kitchen. Her menu includes specialties such as tajine — which is nothing like a Moroccan tajine stew. This tajine (served on an entree platter with mashed carrots for $10, or by itself for $7) is egg-based and similar to quiche. But packed with herbs, spinach and cheese, it’s much denser.

Then, there’s brika ($4), a fried appetizer that, from the outside, looks a little like a crepe or an empanada. When we cut open our brika, we were surprised to find it contained an egg with still-runny yolk (the menu hadn’t warned us about that!). Also inside were potatoes, capers, tuna and parsley. I wasn’t crazy about the combo at first, but the crunchy, briny ingredients actually meshed well with the gooey yolk. Good stuff.

For a cuisine with items that initially sound and look familiar, Tunisian really defies expectations. And comparisons.

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