Dining Out: Sarma

To say that I am a fan of Boston chef Ana Sortun would be a drastic understatement. Her Mediterranean bakery, Sofra, is just a few blocks from my house and has become a weekend staple. Each week I look forward to popping in for a piping hot bowl of shakshuka, a fragrant pastry, an ice cold Red Dragon tea or grabbing some mezze spreads to go. Her Cambridge restaurant, Oleana, is exquisite. In that space they serve tapas-style Mediterranean food and also boast a gorgeous outdoor patio. So imagine my sheer delight to learn Chef Sortun was opening a third restaurant, her newest baby named Sarma.

I first learned about Sarma in a post by Eater back in May 2013. This winter the restaurant opened on Pearl Street in Winter Hill in Somerville.

Inside, Sarma's dining room is bursting with vibrant colors. A blue accent wall adorned with patterned plates decorates the space above a rainbow colored banquette. 
The bar area also has a few tables which are set against a combination of exposed brick and olive green walls. Notice the beautiful tile on the floor (below). 
The week before our night at Sarma we tried to make a reservation on Open Table, but the earliest spot they had was 9:30pm (I am getting old and that's a wee bit late to start dinner), so we decided to head there at 6:30pm, willing to wait it out.

When we walked in the hostess asked if we had a reservation. We hung our heads and said, "Sadly, no." Then she offered, "If you're open to sitting at our communal table in the bar area, we can seat you right now." We looked at each other, then back at her and in unison shouted, "Great!"

We took our seats at the communal table, a high top behind the bar. We were seated in between two families (each a set of parents with one elementary school age child). From our seats we could see the whole bar area, the dining room and the through the floor-to-ceiling windows up front. 

Once seated we were quickly greeted by our waitress who brought menus and ice cold waters. 
The Sarma menu features a wide variety of Mediterranean specialities, but in case you are unfamiliar with some of the dishes or ingredient names, there is a glossary right on the menu. Genius! 
To begin the evening, we each ordered a drink. My dinner date for the evening doesn't drink alcohol and lucky for her, Sarma had a special non-alcoholic drink menu. She went for the Buzz Aldrin which is orange, cinnamon, sage and lemon. 
I'm a fan of the cocktail called the Pimm's Cup, so when I saw Sarma had a Pimm's based drink, I went for it. It's called the Admiral Nelson which is cucumber, dill, vodka, Pimm's, ginger, lime and mint. 
The cocktail was super refreshing and the hint of dill was delicious. The fresh mint reminded me of all the great meals I enjoyed in Israel. No one loves a mint garnish more than the Israelis.

While sipping on our drinks, our waitress brought us a piece of bread dusted with za'atar and a side of olive oil. 

The Sarma menu is meant to be ordered like tapas - a few plates per person. Our waitress recommended three plates for each of us, but we wanted to taste as many things as possible, so we basically ordered everything that looked good with the intention of splitting each plate.

The first to arrive was the haloumi fries. For those who haven't had it before, haloumi is type of cheese, very popular in Mediterranean dishes. I ate tons of it in Israel. In this dish, the cheese is lightly battered (including black sesame seeds) and served with a side of white fig ketchup, sprinkled with oregano. 

The fries were excellent. We gobbled them up in seconds. My advice, order a plate of these for yourself.

Second to arrive was the feta cheese gnocchi. The light pillows of pasta were swimming in a spicy broth with morel mushrooms and peas. This sauce was so expertly seasoned that I wanted to lick the bowl. 

After the gnocchi, we moved onto the butter radishes served with harissa and cilantro. Of everything we ordered, this dish was my least favorite. The radishes were too firm and the greens were too bitter. 
Following the radishes, we dug into the fatoush. Fatoush is a bread salad, like the Italian panzanella. This rendition had strawberries, fennel, arugula and sumac. I absolutely love strawberries in summer salads, they add the perfect dose of natural sugar. In this salad the greens were fresh, the bread brought a great crunch and the dressing tasted like balsamic, which is the ideal compliment for strawberries. 
The green garlic keftedes (vegetable pancakes) were an item I spotted right when we sat down. The plate of three pancakes is topped with kohlrabi remoulade and crinkled cress (how much do you love the alliteration 'crinkled cress'?). 
This was another one of my favorites. I could have devoured all three of these pancakes myself. They were fried to the ideal level of crispiness and the flavor built with the addition of the remoulade and cress.

Our final dish was the asparagus, served with egg katayifi, avgolemono and black truffles. The egg is served the same way they serve the egg in the Turkish breakfast at Sofra, in a nest. 

The soft boiled egg, the crunch from the nest and the butter sauce turned that asparagus into some of the best I've tasted.

In addition to the dishes we ordered, something unique about Sarma is the way they showcase their specials for the evening. Like Dim Sum, they bring each dish around on trays and if you are interested in what you're seeing (and smelling!) you can request it right then and there and they will place it on the table.

After our six round feast we were pretty sure we needed to tap out, but that didn't stop us from perusing the dessert menu. Their are two offerings on the Sarma dessert menu: ricotta donuts and Greek frozen yogurt with your choice of house made toppings. That toppings list includes: lime curd with blackberries, halva caramel, aleppo peanuts, cherry-ouzo sauce and more.

Though tempted, we decided to call it quits.

Overall, our experience at Sarma was a fantastic one. We expected to have to wait at least an hour, but the communal table allowed us to be seated right away. Our waitress was great, our drinks were fabulous and the food was exotic and decadent.

Have you been to Sarma yet? What was your favorite dish? 

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Molly Galler

Welcome to Pop.Bop.Shop. My name is Molly. I’m a foodie, fashionista, pop culture addict and serious travel junkie. I’m a lifelong Bostonian obsessed with frozen confections, outdoor patios, Mindy Kaling, reality television, awards shows, tropical vacations, snail mail and my birthday.

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