gracecheung604 | write on time: Hidden Gem on Commercial: Carthage Cafe

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hidden Gem on Commercial: Carthage Cafe

Last week, we decided to give The Drive a shot and discovered a hidden gem at Carthage Cafe. They have been around for seven years, completely under my radar, but I found out about them after they were  written up in The Vancouver Courier recently.   
bread I've never had Tunisian food before so was really looking forward to the experience. We started off with freshly warmed French baguette which is always a good sign. So many places serve bread but few care to warm it up.
mussels & fries For our appetizers, we started off with the classic northern French dish of Moules Frites. They have quite a few variations available but the one we got was the El Atlas, with hints of saffron, ginger and bell peppers, all in a white wine broth. The mussels are very big and juicy. We asked the waitress where they were from, and was surprised to find out that they were from Salt Spring Island. Very delicious! The fries were just alright, since most of the pieces were not as crunchy as I like, but they well salted and if you dug around, you'd find some with a good crunch.
escargots Another classic French dish, Baked Escargot. The dish was very buttery and you could really taste the garlic as well. It was a bit too oily, but that is to be expected. The warm bread did a great job of soaking up all the buttery goodness. The escargots were fairly big, and quite meaty too.
carthage platter For our entrees, we selected the Couscous Carthage, which was a giant plate of Steamed couscous topped with a chicken breast, a lamb shank and a merguez sausage. Also on the plate were some vegetables braised in a tomato sauce. Of all the meatiness on the plate, my favourite was definitely the lamb shank. The portion was huge, and the meat was super tender. There's just something about mean served on the bone, nothing beats it. The chicken was a bit dry for me, almost as if it had been reheated. The Merguez sausage was tasty, but also a bit dry. The best part of the dish was the bed of couscous. All the juices and flavours from the meat really soaked into the the couscous and gave the meal a heartiness that I've not had before. The vegetables were chunky, giving it a nice rustic, home-cooked touch.   
Brochette 2
I was pretty wowed by the Couscous Carthage but when they brought out the Brochette de Carthage, I was really blown away. Although the brochette is removed prior to it arriving at your table, you can clearly see the sear marks from it being on the grill. The shish-kebob was a trip of meats, chicken, merguez sausage and lamb chops. Although you can't quite see it, it too is on a bed of couscous. You also get some salad with it too, to help lighten up the dish. The salad was made up of tomatoes, cucumber and coriander with a light vinaigrette. The entire salad was diced up and reminded me more of a salsa than an actual salad. In any case, it was great and paired well with the meats. Ah yes, the meats! Unlike the dry chicken that was in the first entree, this chicken was juicy and tasty, I guess searing it really does keep the juices intact. The sausage was the same as the first dish, but the lamb was decidedly different. In the first dish, the lamb was braised until tender but the chops here were grilled to our requested medium rare. The smokiness from the grill was quite distinct and the lamb flavour seemed heightened as result. 
sauces To accompany the mains,  we asked for a bit of hot sauce. We were presented with two. The first is a mixture of caraway seeds, coriander and ground chilli as well as harissa. This had a nice earthy aroma and taste and we poured it over everything. The other was a green chili paste which was just pure heat. It seemed like something out of the bottle and had no depth to it, other than "hot". We tried it, but didn't really care for it.

Take Note:

  • Open for dinner nightly, but lunch only Tuesday-Saturday
  • Very cozy atmosphere, knowledgeable staff
  • Portions are huge, prepare for leftovers 

Carthage Cafe on Urbanspoon

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