Djerba LaDouce 1475 Danforth, at Parkmount, 416-778-7870. Complete meals for $15 per person, including all taxes, tip and a Tunisian tea. Average main $9. Open Monday to Friday noon to 10 pm, Saturday and Sunday 4 to 10 pm. Unlicensed. Cash only. Access: barrier-free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Appropriating its name from a Club Med resort on an island off the Tunisian coast known as the Polynesia of the Mediterranean, Djerba Ladouce on the Danforth couldn't be any less exclusive if it tried.
Open only three months, this modest east-side North African eatery may not be the fanciest joint on the avenue, but it's certainly one of the tastiest and most reasonably priced. The decor's obviously been done on a dime: shelves on pale persimmon walls hold tagines and hookahs; bare tables and wicker chairs face a mural of a Bedouin market; an ATM machine stands guard over a small open kitchen. There, owner-chef Adul Elmasri Abderrazak recreates the cross-cultural cuisine of his home, an intoxicating mix of Arabic, French and Italian influences. Start with Salad Grill Mushwa ($4.95), a dazzling garlicky purée of roasted tomato and onion doused with lemon and olive oil, tossed with plump capers and finished with lightly pickled cucumber and whole green chilies.
Think of Salad Tunisienne ($4.75) as a North African niçoise, a fine dice of tomato, celery, lettuce, cuke, slivered scallions and mild radishes mixed with canned tuna and chunks of pickled zucchini, assertively dressed with lemon, olive oil and black peppercorns.
But avoid the starter of Shrimp à la Marseillaise ($7.50) unless you enjoy the critters anatomically correct with heads, tails and antennae intact. Their harissa-fired tomato sauce, however, is one of Djerba's best assets, doing double duty with terrific steamed mussels ($5.95) and as a topping with grilled olive-oil-drenched veggies over penne ($8.95). It also appears with three oven-baked cumin-scented sardines ($7.95) sided with grilled pepper, Roma tomato and rosemary-dusted spuds.
Cacciatore meets paella in Chicken Couscous ($10.95), a generous portion of couscous layered with sweet, tender, tomato-sauced chicken thighs and lamb sausage as well as great whacks of carrot, potato and cabbage. To finish, unwind with ribbons of house-made baclava doused with honey and rosewater ($1.75 for three) and steaming pots of minty Tunisian green tea ($3 small/$5 large).