We had dinner at Zayna Mediterranean last August 2013, while we were visiting Tucson. Zayna was close to our hotel and had gotten pretty good reviews on Yelp. Overall, the adults liked the food but the children were not very happy.
We got there pretty late, after 8 PM, and the place was buzzing. The two waitresses could not really serve the full-restaurant adequately. That meant that our drinks were rarely refilled, and they weren’t available to correct mistakes. They were friendly, just overwhelmed.
The menu is standard Arab/Syrian food. I had the lamb kifta ($12.5) and the skewers were quite tasty. My oldest daughter liked the green beans and we all thought the buttered rice was very good.
My daughter, on the other hand, did not like the mujadara ($8) she ordered. Granted, it was probably my fault for not explaining to her what a pilaf was – she thought it’d be a lentil and rice soup! We ordered it without the grilled onions, so it did lack flavor and it was very dry. For me, mixing in the yogurt sauce helped greatly, though it still was a pretty boring dish.
My husband had some sort of pita sandwich which he enjoyed, we all liked the fried potatoes it came with.
The dressed salads, however, were so sour that they were basically inedible to us.
The restaurant itself is pretty cute, the colored walls are decorated with huge photos of Damascus. Two or three of them looked exactly like the ones I took when I visited over twenty years ago.
4122 E Speedway Blvd
Mon-Sun 11 am – 9 pm
We came upon Shami last July, 2013, while trying to have dinner at the not-yet-open Padi. It was a positive experience, though the only one who would want to rush back is my 11-yo daughter Mika, she positively LOVED the salad there.
Shami’s menu is pretty limited, all they had when we visited were kebabs and sandwiches, in addition to a few salad and appetizers. It calls itself a Middle Eastern restaurant, but the owners are Yemeni, as indicated by the posters on the wall and the specific seasonings in the food. Indeed, we found most dishes to be more spicy than you’d usually find in other Arab cuisines.
I tried both the grilled chicken and the beef kebabs, both were nicely spiced and very tasty. The chicken was a bit dry, however, and too charred in parts. The flavors were very homey, there was little sophistication on these dishes. The yellow rice was perfumed with cinnamon and other spices and was addictive – though a bit too spicy for my youngest daughter. The meals came with salads, and Mika just adored it. I can’t say what it was about it – surely the dressing – but she ate every last bit, and has been asking us to take her back since.
The only thing that didn’t prove popular was the felafel. The kids found it too spicy, and since a falafel food poisoning incident 24 years ago, I haven’t been able to eat it.
Platters are about $10, sandwiches I think were $8.
I’d recommend it for when you need a kabab fix.
16490 E 14 St
San Leandro, CA 94578
M-Su 11 am – 10:30 pm