Thu Nov 15 2007
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5
A smattering of truffles and a steak frites entrée does not a French-inflected eatery make. Named for the ancient queen of Carthage (in modern-day Tunisia), this Lower East Side newcomer claims to merge Gallic and North African cuisine, but ultimately thumbs its nose at its own brasserie pretensions. The narrow interior—lit with gem-toned Moroccan-style lanterns and crowned with a rounded archway—evokes a hookah bar, not a restaurant. Our appropriately flirtatious waitress suggested we start with the excellent Tunisian ajja—spicy merguez (lamb sausage), submerged shakshuka-style along with a poached egg in a garlicky tomato sauce—from chef Talel Hmaidi (Mark Hotel). The courses that followed, however, never matched the promise of the first. We pined for the saffron touted in the baby-chicken tagine, which was revealed tableside to be a tamely seasoned fowl barely saved by briny wedges of preserved lemon. A trio of baby-lamb chops, served with plump beads of couscous mired in a heavy truffle jus, were inoffensive, if uninspiring. Nutty, but cold, house-made baklava was soldered to the plate with pools of honey, rounding out this middling meal.