Great Middle Eastern food is something I am always searching for, and oftentimes it just doesn’t hit the mark. Even in areas around me, I can always count on finding a fix for a hummus and pita craving, or good chicken shawarma at a restaurant like Oren’s Hummus, or Gyros Gyros, but for a truly authentic and all around experience, DishDash is the place to go. Tucked in a small street off California avenue in Sunnyvale and lit up with Chritstmas spirit, DishDash embodies the small world feel that we often miss in our increasingly urban downtowns. When first walking in, you are met with a certain warmth that radiates around the restaurant, but as you continue walking through the restaurant, the floor plan opens up and leads way to the multiple dining spaces, all of which were full.
Immediately after being shown to our table, a wooden basket of steaming hot pita and a bowl of zatar showed up at our table, and started off what would be a wonderful meal. The pita was soft and slightly chewy, and the zatar was slightly tangy with a bold herb forward flavor. Zatar is a spice blend consisting of mainly sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme, oregano and a few other spices based on personal and cultural preferences. It was served with olive oil and what we thought was a tiny bit of vinegar, which was slightly off-putting but not overpowering. Because one of our friends had been to DishDash multiple times before, all the ordering decisions were left to them, and it was not a decision we would regret. The four dishes we went with were Toum, Chicken Shawarma with hummus, Falafel, and Kibbeh, none of which disappointed.
To start with, the chicken shawarma was great, and stuck to the roots of a widely known Middle Eastern staple. The chicken was well seasoned and properly spiced, and cooked extremely well with a tender texture that didn’t dry out like many other shawarmas. The hummus was also as expected for a restaurant of this representation, the garlic forward flavor profile is always loved, but the creamy texture with whole chickpeas spread throughout was what really defined this dish. Hummus is often textually uneapealling seeing as it can become very easily too thin, or grainy, but the textural contrast from the smooth hummus and the bite of the chickpeas made this hummus special.
Similar to the shawarma, the falafel also delivered on all aspects. A lot of times, falafels dry out and become dense, or just become too soft, but this didn’t stand true here. Obviously the spices were on point with the cumin and herbs shining, but the airy texture combined with the initial crunch of the crust was really good. DishDash also decided to serve the falafel with tahini instead of a more typical hummus side, and although I am not a huge fan of tahini by itself, it was nice to have a change of pace from the overbearing nature of garbanzo and chickpeas.
Although kibbeh is quite popular in the Middle East, it hasn’t yet established itself as a staple in the States, but after trying it, I’m really not sure why. Kibbeh is often served as this croquette-like ball, with coarse ground and spiced lamb fried in a thick batter. On the inside, the lamb is sauteed and cooked with onions and spices like sumac, and when cooked right, the tender lamb becomes reminiscent of a pate like texture. To contrast this, toasted pine nuts are often thrown in, to add a bit of smokiness as well as textural contrast. The batter for kibbeh is made of bulgur wheat, a more niche flour substitute. Bulgur is made from multiple types of wheat, mainly durum, and provides a hearty more substantial taste than flour, while also introducing a unique flavor profile. When all combined, the kibbeh was the perfect combination of initial crisp from the batter filled with this gamey filling lightly spiced and truly highlighted the lamb, all making this truly amazing dish. Although it isn’t quite as popular in most Middle Eastern restaurants around me, I would love to see this become a more mainstream dish, especially as a complement to falafels.
The final dish we tried was toum, which was a simple dish, yet the star of the night. For context, I love garlic, and will put in anything. The concept of too much garlic is foreign to me, but trying Toum almost made me reconsider that stance. Toum is a Lebanese dip that has a creamy yet airy taste flavored heavily with garlic and served with a sprinkling of fresh herbs. Its rich texture gives it a nice contrast to nearly any dish, like the shawarma or falafel, and even some of the simpler choices like pita and cucumbers. More important than the texture, the intensity of the garlic really made this dish pop. How I assume this was done was first off the sheer quantity of the garlic, but also the technique in which it was prepared. When garlic is minced finely then blended into a paste, its pungent tones really come out, and when used in just the right amounts perfectly cut through the richness of the toum and add an incredible depth of flavor. What really amazed me about Toum was the versatility of the dish. Not only does it go well with anything in the realm of Middle Eastern, but I could also see its potential to expand its roots to nearly any cuisine that appreciates a good bit of garlic.