New Palestinian-Syrian restaurant opens in Jack London Square

Oakland's Jack London Square has a new taste.

Rising star chef Reem Assil has opened a new restaurant this week called Dyafa. The name comes from the Arab word for hospitality.

The food is a rare combination of Syrian and Palestinian. From two politically volatile parts of the world.  But the food here is for sharing.

"Hospitality is an essential piece of Arab culture. We do it through our food. We say Arab hospitality is like sweet torture. It's like feeding you when you are full," said Assil.

Assil is no stranger to the Bay Area food scene. She also owns the popular Reem's Bakery and Cafe in Oakland's Fruitvale District. But this time she says she wants to go a little higher end.

"My mom is from Gaza which is on the water. And we will be bringing in big, whole fish platters and serving stuffed squid. Things you rarely see in middle eastern restaurants in the states," Assil said. 

Wines come from Lebanon and Syria and there’s no falafel. Assil says there are many misperceptions about Arabic food, and stereotypes about Arab people.

"The reality is we are living in an era where there is a lot of xenophobia and anti-Arab sentiment.
I'm here to break that barrier and really educate the public about how beautiful Arab culture is," she said.

The reviews? So far so good.

"This cocktail is amazing. And the eggplant dip is really good," said Daphne Wu of Oakland.

"The view is amazing. And it seems to be really popping right now," said Raquel Navarro.

Assil says she feels a sense of responsibility, not only to women entering the tough restaurant field, but especially to Arab women.

"I'm really excited to be role model for other immigrant women, particularly Arab chefs who want to make a splash. If they see other people do it, I’m hoping it could start a new wave," Assil said.

Dyafa is open just for lunch right now. But dinner is expected to start by the end of the month.