[Oakland, JLS] Dyafa ضيافة

Dyafa is Reem Assil’s full service restaurant at Oakland’s Jack London Square. Had a dinner there recently.

Hibaar manshi. Squid stuffed with freekeh, za’atar. That freekeh stuffing was very good- bright and savory. The rest, including the zhoug was fine. I could eat a bowl of that stuffing just by itself.

Muttabal. Roasted eggplant with tahini. Smoky and good.


Hummus kawarma. Highly seasoned lamb with an abundance of sumac went very well with the pita.

Maklooba. The ‘upside-down’ rice was pretty nice, though the tomato sauce around the rice was much preferred with the rice. Texture-wise I preferred rice to be firmer in general, so a mixture of potatoes, lentils and carrots in there really softened it and made it ‘starchy’ in texture.

Without the chips on top.

Pita. Fresh out the oven, too hot to touch. Very good.

Maneesh with za’atar.

Kenafeh- sweet, salty, savory all at once, with the aroma coming from the orange blossom syrup. The pistachio and the cherries didn’t add much but nonetheless this was my favorite dish of the night. Crusty layer provided a great textural counterpoint to the softer cheese underneath. Great dessert.

The meal was good, with all the dishes performing at a high level. That said, every dish except the kenafeh was on the salty side. Even the pita that could be used to counter the salty dishes was abundantly salted. I forgot which dish, maybe the hummus, but I could find a few large finishing maldon? flakes on the dish. It didn’t really need any finishing salt when the dish itself was plenty salty enough. I don’t remember Reem’s being notably salty.

Eager to go back. What else do people like?

Patterson was talking to somebody near the kitchen. Didn’t spot Assil. I was a little skeptical whether Assil could transition from a fast-casual place oriented around breads and wraps to a full service restaurant. But, she can cook very well.



Food looks wonderful, I’ve never seen/had food like this.

Assil and her food, whether it’s here at Dyafa or at Reem’s, is unapologetically Palestinian. Sure there is the familiar like hummus. But everything else is Palestinian food and named the way it’s called back in the Middle East. No menu full of the familiar kabob and falafels (with that said, nothing wrong with those food either). No calling the restaurant Mediterranean. Just one Arabic word ‘Dyafa’- which stands for hospitality. Obviously she has the name recognition these days to pull this off versus a much more modest mom and pop Levantine restaurant. And she’s got the Patterson PR machine behind her.

I am not sure how prevalent Palestinian food is in the Bay Area beyond the familiar kabobs. The catering menu of Holyland Santa Clara. Maybe Dish Dash. Would love to hear more if there are other choices.


Three of us tried Dyafa in Oakland last night for our first visit. I liked it a lot, and in fact, there is almost nothing I would have changed about the restaurant or the food.

I started with a Palestinian white wine available by the glass. There were several interesting wines available by the glass and even more by the bottle. They also have cocktails, which we didn’t try.

We shared the following:

Kabees: Simple pickles – cauliflower and radish. Both were good. $6 seemed a little steep for this though.

Chickpea pancake: A nice gluten-free bread option. We dipped this in the cold mezze. Sort of a cross between a dosa and an American breakfast pancake (without sugar).

Fresh baked pita: One large pita for $3. Excellent.

Mana’eesh: One large bread with za’atar. Served very hot from the oven. Also excellent.

Muhammara: Roasted red peppers, walnut and pomegranate mezze. Not overly sweet, which I appreciated. Refreshing and not overly salty either. If anything, slightly undersalted! Very good.

Mutabbal: Charred eggplant meze. Similar to babaganoush. Not salty. Very good.

Hibaar Mahshi: Stuffed squid with freekah, za’atar and zhoug. Zhoug is a cilantro based sauce, and this was the highlight of this dish. It was a bit spicy. Calamari were tender.

Shakriyah: One of the four large plates. Braised lamb shank with garlic yogurt and rice. Intense lamb flavor, and the meat fell off the bone easily. Large portion and very good.

Maklouba: The only vegetarian large plate, this was also excellent. Layered rice with eggplant, cauliflower, carrots, tomato and crispy fried potatoes on top. Everything sort of blended together and it also had a tomato sauce. Big portion and very good.

The two large plates in particular had a very homey/comforting feel to them. It felt like Palestinian comfort food.

For dessert we saved room for an order of kenafe, since I had read here that it’s really good. This was true…it was maybe my favorite thing of the whole evening. Took a while to arrive because it’s baked in the oven. Not overly sweet, not too much orange blossom water…just really perfect.

Service was attentive and friendly, both still and sparkling water were complimentary and served in glass bottles. The space is really nice and right on the waterfront. It felt lighter and airier than we remembered Haven being.

Total cost was about $170 for tons of food for 3 people, plus two glasses of wine. Highly recommended. Thanks sck for the review which helped us plan out our meal!



Thanks for the report! Looks very delicious! I gotta go back some time to try their shank and the chicken confit. I saw the next table ordered the fish, but wasn’t quite sure how the spices and the fish would play together.

Their menu is somewhat small right now, which is totally fine given the quality, though I hope they rotate their dishes from time to time.


If Reem’s fare is considered everyday “Arabic street food”, the food at Dyafa, which means “hospitality,” is a family-style feast: The kind where you just keep eating. I devoured certain share plates all by myself. Like the loubieh, a wild tangle of yellow and green summer beans dressed in a chunky sauce of serrano-spiked roasted tomatoes and crumbs of toasted pita. And the kibbeh nayyeh, a fleshy, Lebanese-style mash of raw lamb bound by bulgur, and emboldened by lemon zest, baharat, and the heat of burnt cinnamon. It’s a tartare with flavor as flamboyant as the hot-pink triangles of pickled turnips scattered on top.

Photo, below: Kibbeh nayyeh: lamb tartare, bulgur, red onion, burnt cinnamon

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I really enjoyed eating here, and hope to return soon for more of the menu—- we were very happy with our meal, but couldn’t help envy dishes at other’s tables, even the hummus!

Kabees, an assorted pickle plate. Highlight was pickled kohlrabi, not too mustardy, a bit denser than jicama.

Most of her dishes have a carb component, so we didn’t feel we missed out on the flatbreads available also at Reem’s. Fattoush, a herby salad made with fried bits of pita with the kind of crunch food scientists devote their lives to, had a bright, end of winter feel with blood orange slices and fried shaved sunchokes. Her Monterey Bay squid dish, Hibaar, is no longer stuffed, but a composition of tentacles and rings, freekah, and a mild zhoug.

Lahme bi dibis, tender lamb shank, seasoned with a cocoa-nib dukkah, has a slight earthiness that paired well with wheatberries. Greens and squash (I think) also helped sop up the thick meat juices.


We recently ate here for the first time. I am very picky about Mediterranean/middle eastern food (I guess all food really) and am frequently underwhelmed by places that some people love (the middle eastern restaurant on Solano in Albany, forget the name of it, comes to mind). I meant to write a review about our experience at Dyafa, but I don’t think I did, time got away from me. We loved it! I am obsessive about good hummus. I make the Milkstreet Israeli hummus recipe which is revelatory. The hummus at Dyafa was at that level, excellent, definitely the best restaurant version I can remember trying. Topped with crispy lamb breast. We loved everything we tried and are anxious to go back.


Do you think Dyafa also doesn’t use garlic in their hummus?
That Milkstreet recipe is pretty wild. It uses cumin and the cooking water from the chickpeas.
My favorite hummus is Haig’s which has no added oil, simply lemon, tahini and garlic. Oh maybe the ‘spices’ includes cumin! Never thought about that! Hummus without garlic just sounds really bland, and explains why I have been disappointed at restaurants in the past.

I would ask what is most traditional, but every family in the wide hummus making region of the world probably has a different recipe.

I think Dyafa hummus has garlic. The Haig’s is my favorite of the store bought versions. I don’t know if it has cumin but definitely has a good dose of high quality coriander. The Milkstreet one is completely different, based on versions they make in Israel. The first time we made it, we made it without garlic and it was excellent, but when we make it now we add a clove or two of garlic and some coriander and fresh mint and I think it’s even better.

Milkstreet hinted in the podcast where they talk about the hummus recipe that the reason for the lack of garlic in the recipe is that in Israel many people eat hummus for breakfast. Garlic might not be the best idea if that’s the case

What would you consider as a terrific version of hummus? Is the Milkstreet one similar to Oren’s if you have tried theirs?

I don’t think I’ve tried the Oren’s. When I make the Milkstreet version at home it’s terrific and the version at Dyafa is terrific. I like the Haigs which is a completely different version of hummus than Milkstreet and Dyafa. I don’t like the Hummus guy hummus which many people seem to like.

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Oh no! I live for that stuffing! I think that’s the highlight of that dish…

Cocoa-nib? Is the cacao taste prominent?

I think the squid dish may be the same ingredients, just inside out now :slight_smile:

The cacao taste wasn’t too prominent to me, but I had a cold so could have missed it.