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At long last, Sarma!

They opened on Tuesday evening -- I live right around the corner and did a frantic Google-search for their phone number after driving by and spotting a hostess in the window.

The bar looked bustling and fun, but we knew we were going to be awhile eating so we opted for a table. We were the first customers seated in their dining room (!!!) and got our second round of drinks on the house, which was lovely. From memory, they have Stillwater Cellar Door, Notch something (Session Pils?), Porkslap, maybe a Slumbrew...

We tried a little of everything and the food was beautiful and tasty across the board. The jerky was perhaps a bit over-seasoned, but then I'm not much of a jerky girl. Beef and cheese rolls wrapped in a loose phyllo rose shape were UNBELIEVABLE (can't remember their proper name). Duck-and-date kebabs were solid, and I think came served with a smear of light, fluffy squash puree. The yogurt cheese with warm sesame-seed-studded flatbread was also excellent -- we had to ask for more bread. There were sesame seeds thither and yon by the end of the meal.

Waiters circulate with instant-gratification trays of specials, which you can order on a whim (little hamwiches on Manchego buns were stellar, figs dripping with pork fat good but a little too gooey). Good beer selection, at appropriate Somerville prices. We're cocktail snobs, so we just window-shopped the cocktails with an eye to recreating at home, but I'm going again tonight with and will check one out. Covertly snapped cocktail list photo attached.

The staff was very attentive and friendly. They were distinctly overstaffed, but that's sort of to be expected on opening night.

The saturated blue-and-green decor is warm and welcoming. The servingware is an attractive mix of clean white less-is-more dishes and ornate silver cups and trays. Turkish coffee came in a tiny fluted ceramic cup so adorable we didn't mind paying $4 for it.

A couple of notes:

- There are two doors. The one on the corner was (and maybe still is?) locked, although during the course of the meal at least 10-15 people tried to come in that way. We did a lot of friendly waving and gesturing to the other door, which is around the side, a little way down Pearl St. We suggested that they put a sign on the door...

- We ordered the frozen Greek yogurt for dessert. As a devotee of Sophia's authentic Greek yogurt from Belmont, which exists at the delightful crossroads of cream cheese/yogurt/sour cream, I had high hopes, but the Sarma offering was crystalline and underwhelming (though pleasantly tart). At $8/pop, plus $2/topping, it's just not worth the outlay of cash.

I can't wait to go again tonight! I'm so excited that this is my new local hangout (my wallet and Highland Kitchen, less so).

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  1. OH! And how could I forget? $3 Miller High Lifes! :D

    1. Ah thank you for the report! I can't wait to try it out.

      How were the prices? After Craigie on Main's "neighborhood" offshoot, I'm intrigued by what Oleana's will look like.

      5 Replies
        1. re: Bellachefa

          Oh, thanks! The OPs post had me worrying it wouldn't be as vegetarian-friendly as Oleana, but the menu puts that to rest. Looks awesome.

          1. re: antimony

            I enjoy how they layed out the menu with the proper names on the dishes and a seperate glossary on the side.

            1. re: antimony

              Sorry about that! We are carnivores, so went meat-centric on the nosh. As you can see from the menu that Bellachefa kindly posted, it's definitely veg-friendly, too.

            2. re: Bellachefa

              b, are you one of those gifted 'Search' people? or was this linked menu in a boston.com article? thx so much for posting it; so essential for this thread about Sarma.

          2. Thank you so much for the great report! And wow, my husband will be psyched on the $3 high lifes!!! And let's be serious, so will I...;)

            1. Great report.

              I think Highland Kitchen will survive just fine.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gabatta

                Haha, I know they will! It's a different market for sure. I'll never really abandon HK, at least not until they take the buffalo fried Brussels sprouts off the menu.

              2. miss, EXCellent report, very well roundedw/ helpful info. Thk you.

                1 Reply
                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  Thanks! I hope you enjoy it if you go!

                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                    The prices (though not Paddock) don't look too daunting; and the menu is pretty exciting. That said, Sofra's prices don't look too daunting either, but then when you realize how much you might have to be order to be full... at breakfast, not a huge deal to go light, but i'm interested to check out/hear from others how many/which plates people end up ordering on average to create a full meal.

                    which isn't to say it won't be a good value (i think sofra is a great value), just that this kind of menu is particularly hard to decipher on paper in terms...

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Oh, the Paddock. I'll never feel just right at Sarma until they put jalapeno poppers and bottled Bud Light back on the menu...

                    2. Yesterday was one of the three days per year that we splurge on a special dinner out. We chose Sarma since it is right here in the neighborhood. It felt like a risk given the negative review posted here earlier this week, and the fact that the place hadn't been opened for even a week. I am so glad that I overcame my anxiety.

                      The two of us arrived just a bit early for our 7:45pm reservation, the first time open on OpenTable. Our table wasn't ready, so we waited to be seated while checking out the room. When did that room get so big? The front door, which really isn't marked, opens into a ramp. One side is the front panes of glass to the street, while the other side is large panes of glass that will keep folks who are sitting at the bar from being blasted with cold air during the wintertime. The bar is a huge rectangle with seating on three sides. The fourth side includes an entrance to the kitchen. The lights are Turkish style glass with lots of azure blue color. There is quite a bit of custom metalwork with cut outs using Muslim symbols spelling the name of the restaurant. The place was nicely warm, both with the decor and the temperature. We were seated at a two-top away from the host/ess stand at a banquet/chair arrangement. The banquet was upholstered with a different fabric behind each table. I really liked this effect, and there is certainly plenty to look at.

                      Our waiter, whose name was not announced, gave us a rather lengthy description of how to order, and noted the specials that would be roaming the room later. A slip was left on the table for noting these specials. The slip had three columns: $4, $7, $8 which I guess were the three price points for those specials. He stated that he couldn't tell us what those specials would be since it was "a surprise from the chef." He suggested 3-4 plates per person, and we took that advice, ordering 7. Somewhere between choosing what we wanted to order and ordering, the proteins took over, so our meal was a bit unbalanced from the perspective. But we got exactly what we ordered.

                      We were given a choice between sparkling, still, or tap water. We drink Somerville water every day, and opted for the local choice.

                      The first thing to arrive were two flatbreads and a jug of olive oil. I was starving and was really happy to see food! The amount of olive oil was very ample given the amount of bread. My glass of wine arrived at about the same time. It would not surprise me if the amount of oil is reduced over time. I bet there is a lot of waste there. We didn't even use half of that jug on our bread.

                      Next item to arrive was the Tuna Nayeh with fennel charmoula and sweet potato. This dish had six pieces of tuna topped with the fennel and string, fried sweet potato. Very nice textural contrasts. Absolutely delicious.

                      The next delivery was the Yogurt cheese with pickles, za'atar, and warm garlic toasts. The labne [cheese] was served in a small pickling jar with olive oil in the bottom. The pickles included green bean and cucumber pickles. Mr. SMT is not a huge pickle guy, so I was the recipient of these delicious morsels. Since there were three balls of the cheese, we had to split one of them. We both liked this dish so much, neither of us was willing to get only one.

                      And then the dishes came fast and furious. The squid with tomato, corn, hot peppers, and orzo was really a stew, served in a bowl. We actually requested spoons so that we could enjoy the sauce along with the chunks. The flavor was mostly the squid, tomato and hot peppers with a bit of corn. We hardly found any orzo. This was a hit. I loved this dish and there wasn't a drop left.

                      The Mushroom Lamegun with cabbage and black truffel labne was three flatbread about 3 inches in diameter with a puree of mushroom, and maybe tomatoes and bell pepper? The cabbage and black truffle labne were served on the side in a small bowl. Mr. SMT loved this dish. I found the bell pepper flavor to be overwhelming, so he got two of those.

                      The Harissa BBQ Duck with carrot, date, and pistachio was one of our top items of the evening. We were served two skewers of the duck. Each skewer had 5 pieces of duck cooked medium rare. There was the obligatory, restaurant schmear of carrot puree underneath the duck with some pistachios sprinkled on top, along with some orange supremes. The only thing that might have made this dish better was some more carrot. The duck was tamely seasoned while the carrots had both warm and hot spices. Do darn good!

                      The Zucchini Keftedes with cucumber tzatziki were a disappointment. The Keftedes were just not what I expected given their name. These were flour pancakes with some grated zucchini. They seemed under seasoned and uninspired. The tzatziki on the other hand, was delicious. We didn't finish this plate. We just didn't care for it at all. Later we found that this item had been removed from our bill.

                      Our final dish was the Lamb Souvlakia with lots of herbs and Greek style potatoes. Again, two skewers of meat were served with a row of the smallest roasted potato wedges you have ever seen. I found the lamb bland. If there were lots of herbs, they were not apparent. The potatoes were very lemony and did bring some flavor to the dish. There was a tiny wedge of lemon on the plate that gave us exactly three drips of lemon juice.

                      We opted to not have dessert. We had already eaten LOTS of yogurt and we quite stuffed. The service was good from the moment we arrived until the end of the meal. Though I found the spiel about how to order unnecessary and a bit redundant, the rest of the service was unobtrusive. Water glasses were filled. We were offered opportunities to order additional food. The strolling food hawkers were polite. The only thing that marred our experience was the waiter chose to clean our table as soon as we told him that we didn't need dessert using my cocktail napkin. Somehow this was fairly intrusive as he made big sweeping motions from an awkward spot diagonally behind our table.

                      The check is brought in a small tin box decorated like an Alhambra window. Very pretty and really inconvenient. So you open the box and unfurl the receipt. Then you have to place the payment in the box, but now the wait staff can't tell if you are ready to pay. Since we paid with a credit card, the box returned now holding the original bill, credit card, receipt to be signed and the customer copy of the receipt. This was the silliest thing I have ever witnessed. Pieces of thermal paper flying about the table.

                      We really liked our meal. We liked the room. The noise level was perfect. The music was fairly eclectic, though certainly not Middle Eastern. We felt that we received good value for our money. In fact, we would return again for a less "special" meal, sitting at the bar and sharing 3 plates or so.

                      Our dinner with 6 plates and one glass of wine was $94 plus an ample tip. We felt that we had eaten many different flavors, and enjoyed almost every bite.

                      1. We hit up Sarma last night also. We had not made reservations, so after trying the corner door (random elderly woman walking by with a dog shouted, "The other door!" at us) we walked back to the real door (basically identical to the corner door) and got seated at the bar.

                        Unlike smtucker, we received no directions whatsoever on how much to order, no information on the circulating specials, and no choice of waters. (I didn't care, but it was just interesting to hear how different smtucker's experience was.) We also only got 1 flatbread and unfortunately we never noticed the tiny jug of olive oil until the flatbread was gone.

                        A lot of things (the olive oil container, the plates that the dishes are served on, the portions themselves) are small. I love miniature things - my goal is to build a dollhouse some day, solely so I can decorate it with miniature things - so I was predisposed to like Sarma.

                        We had the pumpkin fritters (delicious), the lamb souvlakia (good, but could have eaten a vat of the potatoes, and not the 6 or 7 slivers that came with the dish), and the moroccan fried shrimp.

                        I think all the dishes we got have been described already other than the moroccan fried shrimp, which is battered, and comes with rice vermicelli, lettuce leaves, and some cucumbers. Usually I can't eat anything even remotely spicy, but the spice at Sarma is pleasant and doesn't leave a burning aftertaste. This dish was really good, and a bit sweet, though rather awkward to eat.

                        We had been eying everything our neighbors ordered (they were quite nice about telling us what they got, and even passed on their extras of the tuna neyeh to my DC who quite enjoyed it) and their Harissa BBQ Duck looked so good that we decided to order it when we realized we were still hungry. This was fantastic.

                        My DC also got a special dish of corn, onions, and feta cheese which I could not eat because I am lactose intolerant. (According to the bartender, Sarma will soon be coming out with allergy-specific menus, and he said they could also modify any dish as needed.) Other specials circulating the room were bowls of fried chicken and what appeared to be the lamb ribs from the menu.

                        DC also got a cocktail - the apiary - which she described as "nothing special."

                        We passed on the frozen yogurt dessert (see: lactose intolerance) but ordered a topping of the pistachio baklava, which was tasty but not crisp, and mushy instead.

                        Total bill came to $70, and I left pleasantly full, but also kind of craving a giant bowl of vegetables. The room is very nice and comfortable, and I'd definitely go back.

                        1. Just to pile on....we walked in and managed to snag two seats at the bar quite easily last night. We ordered a variety of plates as well as a walk around dish. Here's how we fared:

                          Pumpkin Fritter: this was unbelievable. Get this.

                          Lamb Kofte Sandwich: my DC loved this a lot more than I did, but still solid.

                          Pork Belly Buneulo: amazing. The quince is an excellent foil to the fatty pork.

                          Yogurt cheese: Again, my DC adored this, I just thought it was perfectly fine cheese and bread.

                          Fluke nayeh: potentially slightly odd in cut, but the flavors were spicy & fresh with an added benefit of crunch from sweet potato.

                          Lamb ribs: a slight timing snafu lead to these taking forever to get to us, so I only had one bite before we had them boxed up to go - so gamey.

                          Sesame fried chicken: a passed plate and a massive portion.

                          Brussels sprout bravas with chorizo: My absolute favorite dish of the night.

                          Cheese & Basturma Roll: my absolute least favorite dish of the night. Incredibly greasy, essentially overwhelming in butter flavor (not that I don't love butter) with no hint of beefy flavor.

                          Bartending was professional and kind and the cocktail I had was smokey and brown - just the way I like them!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: gini

                            Sounds like a good T shirt for you: A hand wrapped around a glass, with the words "Make mine Smokey and Brown" !

                            1. re: gini

                              Aren't those brussel sprouts insanely good? My friends and I mopped up every last bit of that sauce. I'd order two next time.

                              I liked the flavor of the pumpkin fritters a lot, but it wasn't what I was expecting at all. They reminded me more of tiny souffles.

                            2. I went to Sarma earlier this week - finally!

                              We made a reservation and luckily knew which door to go to from all of you! Our waitress did offer us a choice of water, but we never even got the flatbread! Very inconsistent with all this.

                              Our waitress said the chef makes whatever and then sends it out as specials, so she didn't know what we should expect. Both the sesame chicken and a halloumi/potato pancake (so delicious) came out right after we ordered and we jumped on them. Thankfully, since there was never a second round while we were there.

                              In addition to the two specials, we had the brussel sprouts, fava bean pate, scallop dish, and pumpkin fritters. I cook brussels a lot so maybe I have particularly high standards, but I found them to be unimpressive. The scallop dish is similar to something on the menu at Oleana that I like. The fava bean puree was by far my favorite of the menu items - savory and delicious. We split the yogurt with chocolate hazelnut baklava and sesame caramel for dessert. Delicious, but probably not worth the price.

                              One thing I found a little strange (besides that we never got bread!) was that the pacing of the meal was a little weird. We got the specials very quickly (our call but I'd make it again since we didn't get a second shot) and then everything else came in succession soon after. Even with eating dessert, we were out the door in just about an hour. This felt like a neighborhood place in that it was a relatively quick meal in a laidback environment - too bad the price didn't reflect that.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: addiez

                                I don't understand. If you knew there was bread, and you wanted the bread, why did you not insist on the bread?

                                1. re: Bellachefa

                                  I totally forgot! I "knew" that it was coming, then by the time we realized it never came it was too late. Oops! Next time, I won't forget.

                              2. After admiring Cassie's dish above the other 19 chefs at yesterday's American Lamb Jam, we finally made it in to Sarma tonight, and she continued to thrill us. I just now read through this thread and it's interesting that, from our experience tonight, a number of the complaints seem to have been addressed since then. It's a big open room; the whole front is a wall of glass . Banquettes run along 3 walls , while a long bar and kitchen fill one half and tables and banquettes the other. Quite unlike Oleana, It has a very spacious uncrowded feeling in all the areas. We could not hear neighbors' conversations, and overall noise level was comfortable. With all these considerations, it felt 'designed for comfort.'

                                Our server was friendly and very knowledgeable about the food, and good at guiding us for menu choices.
                                The menu is divided into categories, though i would call them all "Small Plates". We ended up with 8 savory dishes, 2 desserts, a mixed drink and a cider. We took home 1 dessert and 2 savory dishes, so I daresay our $135 meal and bill (pre-grat.) could have comfortably filled a third person .(If so, we would have each owed $42 plus gratuity.) Personally, i find that alot of Turkish food tastes fine at room temp., so our Sarma leftovers will be enjoyed by us as breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

                                --Fried chicken with tahini remoulade. Boneless yet tender and moist, deeply spiced(not hot-spicy)
                                thick crunchy crust, cleanly fried. THIS is a truly terrific fried chicken, and the yoghurt sauce is a perfectly bright piquant partner. (The one dish of four kitchen specials that we jumped on even though we knew we had ordered enough already. <And never was heard a discouraging word.........> )
                                -- Swiss Chard Rolls with ( [ I requested] skordalia over the sweet potato sides because i was still recovering from the sugar overload at yesterday's Lamb Jam.) Wow and wow. A dash of cinnamon, the beef with a lovely creaminess.
                                --Moorish Pork Skewers with charred spring onions and a great Romesco sauce (very similar to Jim Becker's.) The pork was generous and amazingly tender, coated with a tomato spice mixture.The dish reminded us vividly of Tony Bourdain's program joining a Spanish Spring celebration in the fields w/ piles of harvested scallions, char grilled and dipped in big bowls of Romesco.)

                                --- Kinnefe (shredded filo) timbale filled w/ three cheeses, with beets, sauces and pepper cress. Another spring rainbow.

                                --Gigante beans, breaded and fried, combined with a beautifully simple and refreshing mushroom and celery salad.

                                -- Plain frozen Greek Yoghurt w/ Sesame Caramel (my chosen topping from a long list). Juuuust enough sweetness with the tart. What a refreshing way to end a meal filled with complex spicings.

                                -- Ricotta (mixed into the batter) Beignets- wonderful soft-as-a-cloud texture, cleanly fried. Sesame Caramel added a needed touch.
                                --Elettaria- Rum, lime, cardamom, ginger drink
                                "Missing Something, not sure what" :
                                Eggplant salad
                                Trout Almondine (it's orange Scottish trout and doesn't taste anything like our lake/river trout.)
                                Zucchini pancakes- at $10 for 3 little pancakes, this was the only dish i felt was over priced.
                                Beef Tartare- exquisitely beautiful presentation but curiously unstriking flavor
                                All in all, our dinner at Sarma was really a breath of fresh air. And in showing so much forethought about our long-awaited Spring, the food really filled me with a mindfulness of this special season! I guess the fact that the place was packed when we left at 8 ( Monday, the first night of Passover) showed that alot of people feel as positive towards Sarma as we do .