It was quite a scene, Avenue Habib Bourgiba......the Missus was taking a rest, as I wandered back out to pick up some "eau de mineral....no gas", that would be bottled water. On the map, there are streets perpendicular to Habib Bourgiba, but many of them are almost alleyways. Right around the corner from the Hotel Carlton was one of them Rue de Caire. On these sidestreets there are tons of restaurants and one of them is Restaurant le Caire. Not in the mood for more busy places, this tiny restaurant close to the hotel, not too busy, away from the crowd on the street, was where we decided to grab something to eat.
The restaurant had a couple of tables filled, it seems by locals or Tunisian tourists.....not much French being spoken, they were ordering in Arabic. Looking at the menu, this appeared to be Sfaxian as well. The guy running the place was really friendly and as soon we sat he brought out a tray with "today's catch".
We placed our order based on what we saw.....funny thing was, later during our meal, the plate was brought out to the table next to us and it looked like exactly the same seafood, in exactly the same position on the plate was brought out. I'm guessing these were the "stunt" fish....used for ordering purposes.
Soon enough the bread and Harissa was brought out.
This was a bit better than lunch, with a mild garlic taste, but still rather monotone in taste.
The Missus had also ordered a salad, I thought it was mechouia, but She had ordered Salade Tunisienne....which kind of freaked Her out when it arrived with what looked like canned tuna topping it.
The Missus hate canned tuna. In fact, there's only one brand I eat, She must dramatically leave the room! So I knew this was going to be interesting....well, there's not only one brand of tuna I eat, I do enjoy many of the Spanish, Italian, and French labels of canned tuna, but sheesh, they cost an arm and a leg. I knew this was mediterranean tuna, so I told the Missus, "I think it's worth a try." Not the best, but the Missus thought it not bad. She did enjoy the ripe tomatoes, diced cucumbers, olives, with just some olive oil and lemon.
I also wanted to finally try some brik, basically a very thin pastry called warka, thinner than even filo, filled with a raw egg and a variation of other items, tuna, onions, harissa, capers, etc.....
Some places will even ask you how you want your egg done.........
It's deep fried to a golden crispness, when done well it's wonderfully crisp and light, and the magic happens when you cut it open.
The Missus didn't care much for the tuna in this and though I enjoyed it at the time, it would pale in comparison to versions we would have later on.
My grilled fish tasted fresh, was grilled nicely, the skin nice and crisp, flesh moist, but again was lacking in salt.
It was better than what we had for lunch though. The frites were the typical soggy and dry version we had earlier. I was also served a plate of very bland and over-cooked rice. Now I'm from Hawaii where we joke that every meal should come with "three carbs"....well considering the big basket of bread, the fries, and the big plate of rice........what can I say?
The Missus again ordered crevettes grille - grilled shrimp.
These shrimp were nice and sweet, just a tad overcooked, but not bad. The only complaint.....yeah, you got it, lacking in seasoning! Of course it came with frites as well as a huge plate of overcooked, bleh pasta. We were to find out later that folks really cooked their pasta to death because it was thought to help "digestion"!
As we left the restaurant, darkness had fallen on Tunis. The demographic on the street had changed....the young men were still drinking coffee, now joined by older men, but the women who were seen out and about shopping or eating ice cream were gone.
The Missus decided that She wanted to try some ice cream, which along with various pastries seemed to be very popular. Right next to the hotel was a little shop wher the Missus got a two scoops and we sat in the now empty table across from the shop. The top scoop was a delicious pistachio flavor. The bottom scoop tasted very odd, not necessarily sweet, but strangely familiar. Turns out the Missus had selected zgouguo as Her other flavor. Zgougou is a Tunisian dessert based on nuts from the aleppo pine.
Tunisia is a Muslim country. All the women and young women we had seen with respect to what folks wear here in San Diego dress rather modestly, from those who are covered from head to tow completely in black, with even eyes covered, to those in jeans and blouses. So we were rather shocked to see two women get out of a cab in very mini-mini skirts and walk to a blackened out and partitioned doorway next to the hotel. I could only draw one conclusion.......which the Missus didn't believe. Hmm.......
The next morning we got up bright and early. Breakfast wasn't ready yet so the Missus and I decided to take a look around. As we entered the lobby of the hotel I could hear a woman yelling at someone....now this was at 5 in the morning! The guy in the lobby saw us, sheepishly smiled and told us in English, "no worry, some friends make joke with each other!" As we stepped out of the hotel we saw one of the women from the night before, now dressed with a nice shiner around her eye in addition to her mini-skirt. Must have been one heck of a joke. I looked at the Missus and told Her, "really now....you don't believe me?" And was dismissed with a wave.
This is Rue de Caire in the morning. I walked up and took a photo of the restaurant. We'd find a multi-floor shopping mall near the end of the street with a Monoprix Supermarket in it later in the day. Great place to pick up water and other items.
The streets were empty and it made for a nice walk.
Here's another photo of the Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul.
This is Bab el Bahr also known as Porte de France.
Bab el Bahr means "sea gate" and before the French arrived this gate opened from the Medina to a path to a lagoon. The French built the European part of the city outside of it and destroyed the walls of the medina. They called this the Porte de France a dividing point between the Old and European sides of the city.
It was nice to able to walk around crossing the street without having your head on a swivel.