ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Jamila’s appears again and again in my dining history. In 1993 Jamila’s hosted the second Eat Club ever held, feeding us all night with almost everything on its menu, with wines for $15 per person. So we know they’re generous. In 2014, we held our Eat Club pre-cruise dinner in which I showed up on the wrong day–something I will never live down. That cruises included Tunisia. The weather wouldn’t let us go to that North African land, but we at least got a taste of Tunisian food at Jamila’s.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
We don’t have many Northern African restaurants in New Orleans, and this is certainly the only one essaying Tunisian food. It’s a blend of Middle Eastern and French cooking, such as unique as it is exotic. The food, surroundings, owners, and prices come together to make first-timers rave about the place.
Moncef and Jamila Sbaa and their sons run the restaurant in person: Moncef not only serving most of the tables but shooting the breeze with his regulars, too. In the kitchen, Jamila cooks delicious versions of the familiar Middle Eastern dishes, and adds to it many unique dishes and couscous, made from scratch in genuine couscousiers. Everything’s made from scratch, including the merguez–the classic Northern African sausage.
Jamila’s serves the food of Tunisia–an interesting cuisine that blends French and Middle Eastern flavors. Appetizers and soups tend toward the French side of the equation, with the flaky pastries of the Middle East filled with rather rich fillings.
The dominant entree is couscous, steamed over the boiling broth in which the meat part of the dish is cooking. The menu covers a great deal more ground, including food familiar enough for the timid eater. This is a total family operation: Mom is the chef, Dad waits on all the tables, and the two sons help out.
The main dining room is loaded with memorabilia from Tunisia. Another dining area inside an enclosed carriageway offers further seating and space for big parties.
Steamed mussels, garlic, white wine reduction, fresh herbs
Brik au thon (phyllo dough stuffed with tuna, potatoes, shrimp
Phyllo dough stuffed with shrimp, potatoes
Merguez (sautéed lamb sausage, tomatoes, bell pepper, spicy sauce
Grilled shrimp skewers, tomato, garlic basil vinaigrette
Escargots, Calvados butter, fine herbs and parsley.
Jamila’s crawfish, zucchini and spinach bisque
Lentil soup (vegan)
Salad Tunisienne (tuna, apples, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, vinaigrette.
Salad Houria (mashed carrots, caraway, spicy vinaigrette, tuna and olives.
Grilled fillet of amberjack, roasted garlic, bell pepper chutney
Fillet of Atlantic salmon, Dijon mustard crust, beurre blanc
Mediterranean shrimp, garlic, white wine, sun-dried tomatoes spinach, linguine
Grilled 8-oz. filet of beef, pommes lyonnaise, sautéed vegetables, green peppercorn sauce
Mechoui en brochette (grilled marinated lamb skewers, couscous or basmati saffron rice.
Couscous with fish, vegetables au jus
Couscous with chicken
Couscous Royal (lamb, merguez sausage, chicken, vegetables
Couscous à l’Agneau (lamb, fresh vegetables au jus)
Tajine spicy chicken, potatoes, olives, marinated lemons baked in terra cotta dishes, saffron rice
Tajine of boneless braised lamb, served in terra cotta dish, marinated lemon, basmati saffron rice.
Vegetarian pasta or couscous
Makroud (semolina cake with pitted dates in orange blossom syrup)
White or dark chocolate mousse, strawberry sauce.
FOR BEST RESULTS
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
When they’re busy, things slow down. But nobody seems to mind.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted