When my husband and I experiment with new foods, we often wind up comparing them to items we‚Äôve eaten before: ‚ÄúThis crab bisque is almost as good as your mom‚Äôs,‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúThese beignets remind me of fried dough.‚ÄĚ But Tunisian food ‚ÄĒ which we tried for the first time at Taste of Tunisia (2313 Wilson Blvd., Arlington) ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôs the area‚Äôs first Tunisian eatery. Baya Stiti, a former chef at the Tunisian Embassy, helms the kitchen. Her menu includes specialties such as tajine ‚ÄĒ 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‚Äôs much denser.
Then, there‚Äôs 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‚Äôt warned us about that!). Also inside were potatoes, capers, tuna and parsley. I wasn‚Äôt 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.