...that picture above? Yep, the frittata-looking one. When this tagine hits the table, anyone expecting a pretty Moroccan claypot tagine would be quite justified in tumbling down a hole which sounds like: huh? say that again?...what?! tagine?...no way can't be!...no-no...no!...NOOOOoooooo.
But this IS Tagine done Tunisian-style at Taste Tunisia in Hor Al Anz. Those spongy strips tasted quite like a frittata with cubed potatoes and egginess going all around. Sadly, they didn't have anywhere near the complexity or tender texture that Paula Wolfert's description makes me think they should have had.
FYI, this very untagine-like tagine modelled for me at a Tunisian restaurant in Hor Al Anz, a restaurant that was fused at the neck with none other than a…billiards venue.
Now while the tagine was a miss, there were other dishes that stepped closer to my idealized notion of what sensuous cuisine would be served up in the Maghreb. Mind you, I’ve never been to Tunisia, so my guess is as good as anyone else’s who’s not been there. As with anything else, I’d reckon that eating a version sitting here in Dubai is nothing close to what the original might be back in Tunisia. But that said, there is a value in experiencing some version of the dish and put a ‘face’ to a food that you’ve only heard or read about, up until that time you can sort out your bank account and jet off to Africa.
The super crunchy triangle of Tunisian Brika, which is exactly the sort of phyllo parcel filled with tuna, herbs and egg that you’d hug your mailman for delivering to your doorstep. Squish it with some lemon and you’re ready to conquer the world.
The key element in this brika is a runny egg which I have enjoyed at this same restaurant once before. On this specific occasion, I learned the critical lesson that you’re not supposed to waffle around before eating your brika, because if you do...the egg continues cooking within and becomes stubbornly un-runny.
Here's another winner, the Tunisian Kaftaji. A seemingly ordinary veggie paste fenced in with fries - but definitely far more complex than initial observation would have you imagine.
It’s one of those dips that you just want to skim off with your fork and enjoy plain so you can sense the different flavours going in: roasted eggplant, infused with the bitterness of green peppers, the sweetness of onions and red peppers and the slightest touch of heat. Small tender bits of boiled egg added substance to the delicate, almost vegetarian pâté-like dish.
I'd tell you about the pretty awesome sounding merguez and cheese 'makloub' which was supposed to be baked like a pizza. Except for the heart-breaking fact that their ovens weren't functioning that day. And that when you've got mediocre sausage, processed cheese, and a well-intentioned layer of diced capsicum bundled into a baguette, there's usually nothing spectacular to say.
The Djerba Tunisian Rice with chickpeas, liver and chicken sparked memories of Cajun ‘dirty rice.’ If you like giblets—and I do—then this dish is worth having on the table.
I can now imagine that the rice would have been even better with a few drops of spicy harissa to lubricate the grains, but for some unfathomable reason, I was completely stuffed and my tummy went off-duty at this most inconvenient moment.
I haven’t quite decided if this place is worth an entire lunch session beyond the kaftaji and brika. It’s one of those places you'd instantly write off because (a) it was dead for lunch. I was close to falling across the counter and skidding across the kitchen to announce my presence. Thankfully, a server emerged and saved me that hassle, and (b) ...it was a billiards venue. It’s that 2-in-1 strategy which makes the food at gaming arcades or at bowling alleys outrageously mediocre.
Anyhow, in my books, any place with a name like Taste Tunisia and a menu that has a few specialities to bear testament to the name deserves a try, even if those specialities are squished between a slew of Spaghetti Bolognese and Four Seasons Pizza-sounding dishes.
Anyone tried any other Tunisian places in town? Like Al Malouf? (which incidentally has some pretty polarized reviews online...) I hear there's one close to Deira City Centre? Help me out folks, there's got to be more Tunisian yumminess in this city.
Hor Al Anz. I've plotted an approximate location on my google map. Take the right after Ramada Hotel, then the first right, then left. Drive down the road, and Taste Tunisia will be on your...erm...I forget. But I promise it's right there.)
Menu available here.