photo credit: Krescent Carasso
Some things just aren’t meant to be shared. Lollipops and deodorant are prime examples, and just see how someone reacts when you ask to borrow their new puppy for the afternoon. But when you find something that should be shared, you can’t help but want to bring people along for the ride, which is exactly how you’ll feel at Dyafa. It’s a Middle Eastern restaurant in Oakland, and if you live or work in the area, you should come here with a group of friends to try as many things as possible.
The menu at Dyafa is broken into a few sections: breads, bites, small plates, and large plates. Everything is meant to be shared, but the cold and hot small plates are where you should spend most of your time - especially the charred eggplant dip and the zidbiyit gambari, shrimp in tomato and pepper sauce that you’ll want extra pita to mop up. Not every single dish on the menu is a hit - the lamb in the hummus is a little stringy, and the large plates are expensive and cut down on the variety you can get otherwise, which is the whole point of this place. Sticking with small plates ensures you get the most out of the menu.
The only drawback to the small plate strategy is that you’re charged by the piece for pita. And since bread is necessary to eat most of the food here, it’s a bit like booking a ticket on Spirit Airlines and getting told that sitting down costs extra.
The space at Dyafa is impressive. It overlooks the marina, and if the weather is nice, your group can discuss imaginary plans for renting a yacht off the coast of Greece once you hit it big inventing a way for people to affordably park their cars in the cloud. The inside is pretty too, with colorful tiles, bar seats overlooking the kitchen, and long tables for larger groups. Eating here feels cool, and it’s backed up by a fun playlist that helps remind you that you’re here with friends to have a good time. And that unlike your social media passwords, this is something that’s meant to be shared.
This flatbread leaves enough za’atar dust behind on your fingers to make Cheetos jealous. We’re very okay with this.
Hot, steamy, and delicious pita.
It’s a spread made out of red peppers, walnuts, and pomegranate, and once you try it, you get the feeling that you could sit around and eat it all day long without getting full.
This roasted eggplant dip with lemon and tahini is one of the best things here. Even if you don’t like eggplant, it should be on your table.
The caramelized onions add a good sweetness to the dandelion greens, but it’s still not a necessary order.
Not the best hummus we’ve ever had, but very far from the worst. We wish there was more lamb in this.
This dish is closer in size to a large plate, and we’d order it in place of getting one of those. It has shrimp in a tomato and pepper sauce with chickpeas, and there’s enough shrimp here for two people to easily split.
The spicy whole roasted fish is not spicy. The bulgar and cucumber salad it comes with are good, but together it felt like two separate dishes. Another reason to just stick with the small plates.
The cocktails go with everything on the menu and you should absolutely get one. We like the brandy Bint Al Shalabeeya with fig and greek yogurt - it tastes like how the holiday season feels.