If you’re seeking the familiar taste of home cooking in a trendy upbeat environment, then you’ll love the whimsical flair of Kuwaiti fusion at Dikakeen. The cute and quirky restaurant is located at the mezzanine level in Salhiya complex, and is easily spotted from its bright welcoming signs and crowds of people buzzing around the tables.
I could see large groups happily scarfing down platters of food and quiet couples contently nibbling on shared plates. The smiling waiters were wearing quirky patchwork shirts with suspenders, and weaved around the tables balancing large trays. When I walked in, I felt right at home with the charming displays of popular Kuwaiti products that you’d normally see scattered in baqalas.
From containers of Kitco to cans of Nido powdered milk, the store was decorated with funky classic items I remembered from my childhood. The meals floating around me smelled like simple dishes from home.
The menu itself was endearing, as it was covered in images of iconic products in Kuwait such as Orange Crush, Hungy Bunny, Puffak, and Shay el Wezza. Creative director Farah Bastaki, who was responsible for drawing old-fashioned Kuwaiti symbols with a fresh, hip style, was responsible for all of the designs. Interior designer Ahmed Al Baghli also played a major role in Dikakeen’s concept, as he picked out the vintage design of all their furniture. I was impressed when I was told that the chairs were actually found thrift-style, then refurbished and reused to suit the concept’s style.
Even though I was impressed by the décor, I was here for the food. I started with an almond shake that was promptly delivered in a cute glass jar. It came sprinkled with slivered almonds and was milky sweet, minty, and delightfully refreshing. I was then offered their Turkish latte, which was a cool fusion playing with traditional black Turkish coffee and the rising popularity of blended coffee drinks. It had a deep, bold flavor and gentle layers of froth that made me an instant addict.
The latte was a pleasant accompaniment to their classic breakfast omelets. I was thoroughly satisfied with the large plate of fluffy yellow eggs, glistening with sharp cheddar cheese, and served with finger-licking fried potatoes. It also came with fresh baked bread, which is made to order by their baker who works front and center in the shop.
After we shoveled the last bit of breakfast onto our spoons, we were quickly served a multitude of starters. The names of the dishes were familiar, but their plating was impressively neat and modern. For example, the light and fluffy falafels came in miniature bite-sized pieces, and were served with dainty toothpicks. The kibbeh had the recognizable savory fried flavor, but it was arranged vertically on a slim spear to make sharing hassle-free. When I asked how they were able to replicate the iconic starters so accurately, I was told that their recipes actually come from the owner’s mother, and the spices are specially ground by a relative to be incorporated into the dishes.
The entrees at Dikakeen are also inspired by symbolic Kuwaiti favorites offered with a twist. Their lamb and chicken shawarmas were served street-style and featured the option of a special sauce, which was superb. We even ordered a round of Mishaltit, a local Egyptian hit of flaky bread served with a multitude of topping options. We tried the zaatar, cheese with pistachio, and halloumi with zaatar. The hearty flavors were succulent and very satisfying.
In the end, the desserts turned out to be the true star of this restaurant. I was awestruck by a delight known as the “Coma Chocolate Pudding,” named cheekily after the state of delicious unconsciousness it causes once eaten. It was a magnificent bowl with three kinds of melted chocolate, baked with an entire Lion candy bar until it formed a soft crust. Then it’s topped with powdered sugar, crumbled biscuits, and garnished with an entire ice cream sandwich! It was simply scrumptious, and tasted just like a dessert a Kuwaiti mom would make with a slightly refined air!
Despite the inevitable coma I almost slipped into, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dikakeen. The unusual store was highly entertaining, and it was exciting to eat familiar home-cooking classics amongst a busy crowd. I loved seeing the old-fashioned designs juxtaposed with modern images; it bolstered their welcome vibe and made it the perfect simple hangout where everyone can meet over soul food.