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Tunisian restaurant is a hidden gem
2015-08-07
By Patsy Yang

Tunisian expat Hamadi Labidi is proud to serve his guests authentic cuisine from his home country at Café Berber. The 14-seat eatery is a cozy space reminiscent of eating in a chef’s home kitchen. Tucked away on Pingwu Road close to Panyu Road, the eatery’s unre- markable exterior does little to distinguish it from Pingwu Road’s drab-looking street-front shops. But step inside and an exotic North African vibe is quite evident.

Tunisian hand-woven rugs, shisha pipes and rattan bags deco- rate the walls. Hamadi welcomes you to his “home” with a big smile. A fun character, the Tunisian native from the desert area of Tozeur, generally takes charge of the ordering according to what’s freshly cooked in his kitchen. So, just take a seat, choose a drink and wait for a taste of Tunisia without leaving Shanghai.

Bread is a staple eaten with every meal in Tunisia and a basket of fresh French baguette is the first thing that arrives at your table. Hamadi — who is both chef and host — descends from his up- stairs kitchen bringing an array of dishes. The Tunisian salad (40 yuan/US$6.4) features a mixture of fresh tomato and cucumber, cut into small pieces together with capers, black and green olives and sprinkled with mint leaves and olive oil. The national salad makes for a refreshing start to the dinner — be sure to soak up the juices with the baguette slices.


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Tunisian olive oil is revered as among the best in the world. The nation’s cuisine is based on olive oil and spices that transform simple, healthy ingredients into refined flavors. Salad Mechaiya (45 yuan) is a traditional Tunisian grilled pepper salad. The spice of the green pepper together with garlic and caraway seeds give it a distinctive taste that makes you want to eat more.

Brick tuna (48 yuan) is a deep- fried triangular parcel of filo pastry filled with tuna, soft- cooked egg and herbs. It makes for a more filling starter. The crunchy pastry is very common in Tunis, and Café Berber is the only place in Shanghai we’ve discovered this tasty snack.

After the appetizers have sparked your appetite, it’s time to move on to mains. Couscous is the best-known Tunisian dish, and it is a Café Berber specialty. The lamb couscous (76 yuan) cooks slowly over four hours until it is cooked to perfection. Tunisians like a spicy couscous, but Café Berber serves a milder version to suit local tastes.


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The Mongolian lamb is deliciously tender, swimming in a light meaty stock. The sweet richness of the meat pairs well with the fluffy couscous topped with thick-cut potatoes, carrots, onion and chickpeas flavored with imported spices.

The friendly and cheerful Hamadi loves to introduce his country to his guests through his hearty Tunisian fare. Due to the size of the restaurant and the cooking preparation time, book- ings are highly recommended. It is also necessary to order many of the dishes a day before. This includes the traditional Berber dish Golla (280 yuan), which requires more than five hours to slow-roast the lamb in a tradi- tional clay pot. It’s worth it. 






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