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First Bite: Dyafa Spotlights Arabic Cuisine

This Jack London Square restaurant defines hospitality.


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Connor Bruce Photography

From opening Reem’s California—a modest counter-service café in the shadow of the Fruitvale BART station—in August, to debuting Dyafa, a splashy Arabic restaurant in the heart of Jack London Square eight months later, chef Reem Assil’s rise has truly been meteoric.

On our visit, we watched Assil flip crispy chickpea pancakes and discovered why Dyafa (Arabic for “hospitality”) is named Dyafa. Assil simply radiates warmth—as palpably as her fiery hearth permeates the air with the yeasty aroma of blistering pita.

We ate with our hands, using the warm, puffy pita to scoop up the creamiest eggplant spread—smoky and tangy—and folded those crispy-thin pancakes to hold pristine lamb tartare cleverly spiked with charred cinnamon. Our bowl of soufflé-like fried potatoes doused with harissa was pure comfort food, while sweet alabaster squid stuffed with freekeh (a super grain) spelled refinement.

Sitting at the counter, dining on our hot and cold meze, we watched stunning platters of whole fish, monstrous lamb shanks, and sumac-spiced chicken parade by—a convincing reason to come back … with as many friends as possible.

44 Webster St., Oakland, (510) 250-9491, dyafaoakland.com. Lunch Tues.–Fri., dinner Tues.–Sat.


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