Dinner At Sarma, Somerville, Mass.
I love Oleana. It is one of my favorite places to sit outside and share small plates with friends. The food is incredible. Sofra makes my favorite chocolate chip cookies. And they both make one of my absolute favorite desserts: chocolate-hazelnut baklava. So when Sarma (a joint venture from Cassie Piuma and Ana Sortun) opened, I couldn't wait to go and I had really high expectations.
It actually took me longer than I thought to get over to the restaurant, and I finally ended up having dinner there a couple of weeks ago with Emily and Daisy. The restaurant is not really close to anything, so I was surprised at how crowded it was when we walked in. (I've also read that parking is hard to find, and I did drive around a little bit but didn't have much trouble finding a spot on a nearby street.)
The concept is similar to a tapas restaurant, with Sarma offering small, seasonal plates that are meant to be shared (meze). I am always up for sharing lots of little plates!
Our meal started with flatbread and oil, and I tried the Hermoso Ramo cocktail. The cocktail is a light and frothy mix of spiced tequila, hibiscus, lemon, egg white, and St-Germain. It had just the slightest kick to it.
After oohing and aching over all the small plate offerings, we finally narrowed our order down to seven. Just after we ordered, a waiter came around tempting us with fried chicken and explaining that there are a la carte options available throughout the meal, whenever the chef has a little time to prepare something. We turned down the chicken since we had just ordered and had no idea how much food we were in for, but I'm thinking we probably should have just gone for it! Who turns down fried chicken?
Our meal kicked off with the brussels sprouts bravas, a spin on patatas bravas. The brussels sprouts were nicely fried and well seasoned. They came topped with crunchy hazelnut bread crumbs and a spicy bravas sauce. This was definitely one of the best dishes of the night.
Along with the brussels sprouts, we snacked on haloumi fries, which were served with a flavorful white fig ketchup. We all enjoyed the crispy breaded firm cheese and dipping sauce. Think of these as upscale, more interesting mozzarella sticks.
When we arrived the bartender was raving about the basturma and cheese rolls, so we added those to our order. I remembered enjoying the basturma and warm hummus at Oleana and looked forward to sampling basturma in this different presentation. The rolls had a crispy phyllo dough exterior with a warm basturma and cheese filling. I thought they were good but not the best thing we had that night.
We couldn't neglect the pancake menu and opted to try the green garlic and zucchini keftedes from it. These were like zucchini fritters and the soft vegetable-filled patties came topped with a nice, cooling cucumber tzatziki.
An octopus dish with grilled avocado, grapefruit, and Israeli couscous sounded intriguing. The octopus was tender and nicely cooked, and I enjoyed all the components on the dish, but for me they just didn't really go together.
Surprising myself, I loved the Persian beef and Swiss chard bundles (I usually don't like Swiss chard). The tender leaves encased a flavorful filling of lightly spiced beef and there were lots of crispy sweet potatoes on the side to add crunch.
One of the passed options we did spring for was a Greek salad, and we were so glad we did. The mix of peas, finely chopped cucumbers and other vegetables, feta, and herbs was light, crunchy, and satisfying.
The Greek salad would have been a great dish to end on because, unfortunately, our final plate was too salty for any of us to enjoy (and I'm not one to shy away from salty stuff). We put down our forks after just one bite of the fava bean pate, which I had hoped would be a lovely spring dish.
I was almost not going to get dessert when I glanced at the menu. Greek frozen yogurt and doughnuts were the only options. (These don't sound very exciting when you consider the baked Alaska and baklava at Oleana.) But then I noticed that there are a bunch of toppings to choose from and you can dress up the doughnuts and frozen yogurt with those. So the three of us decided to try both and get a couple of toppings to share: passion fruit curd and banana pudding. (You can actually get baklava crumbles for a topping too.)
The doughnuts came out piping hot with a nice thick coating of sugar. You could tell they were freshly fried. And the Greek frozen yogurt had a nice tang to it. I loved taking bites of each with the passion fruit curd.
Overall, we had a nice dinner at Sarma, with some really great dishes (brussels sprouts, Persian beef rolls, and Greek salad) and one major letdown (salty fava bean pate). The space is quite cozy and inviting, with gorgeous Turkish plates and a stunning azure paint decorating the walls. I was really excited to check out Sarma and I'm glad I went, but I have to admit that Oleana is still my favorite of the group.
Have you been to Sarma?
Labels: Restaurant reviews and events