The missus and I went to the long-awaited Sarma on Thursday for our date night.
It's a pleasant space with lovely lighting and an impressive array of plates on the wall. The ghost of the old Paddock has been almost completely exorcised and this place is definitely a jewel-like standout in an otherwise totally unyuppified part of Somerville.
Let's get to what the hounds actually care about: the grub. As a disclaimer, my dining companion is a veggie so we stuck to the meatless menu items, of which there are plenty. There are certainly lots of interesting sounding meaty (especially seafood) items on the menu which I'll have to try another time.
We started with the Pumpkin Fritter, which consisted of three tiny but tasty pumpkin and chickpea cubes garnished with yummy toasted walnuts.
Next plate was the Grilled Eggplant Salad. We are serious eggplant lovers, but found this dish to be disappointing. It just lacked a distinctive flavor. It was served with a nice black sesame encrusted flatbread and a mini pitcher of delicious olive oil.
Next up was the Mushroom Lamejun. This was our favorite dish of the night. Three mini lamejuns with a nice yeasty crust and tangy tomato topping. These were served with a little bowl of toppings including cabbage, caramelized onions, and a dollop of incredible black truffle lebne. This single mouthful was to our tastes the highlight of the meal.
The last item we ordered from the menu was the Kale & Artichoke Spanikopita. This turned out to be a kind of oddball fusion, sort of a cross between artichoke dip and spanikopita. Instead of phyllo dough it was topped with something resembling (buttery) shredded wheat, and was served with a pile of raw seasonal crudites on top. While the kale and artichoke filling was fairly tasty, the various ingredients in this concoction just didn't cohere for us.
One of the conceits/gimmicks that Sarma offers is that there are several mystery "specials" each night. Servers circulate with plates of these, and mark a card on your table dim sum style. We found it a little unclear how many small plates to order initially without knowing what these specials would be at ordering time. The night we were there there were two specials that appeared during our meal, which turned out to be a turkish spiced fried chicken and a swiss chard sarma (interestingly, both of these show up on the menu that's been posted online).
We opted for the sarma, which was sort of a cross between maki and stuffed cabbage. A humble but nicely flavored dish which was served with a tangy tomato sauce.
The other novelty/quirk that Sarma offers is their dessert tray, which is also brought around to the table for your inspection. It's presented in the form of little dishes of various toppings which you can order along with their soft-serve froyo. We opted for the sesame caramel and the baklava, which is served in little crumbly bits (I joked that it was the leftover scraps from Oleana or Sofra). The caramel was really good, but the baklava didn't really distinguish itself. The frozen yogurt itself had a great flavor, really tangy and not that sugary, with most of the real sweetness coming from the toppings. Although all these elements were quite flavorful and the opportunity to top your own dessert is fun, once again we didn't feel that the various ingredients totally cohered.
Overall we were a bit disappointed, perhaps due to our long anticipation of the opening. Most of the things we tried were good, but mostly not GREAT to our taste. The only thing that really "hit it out of the park" was the lebne, which was a small portion of one dish (the menu refers to "locally made yogurt cheese" so it may not even be made in house. If someone knows where it comes from let me know!)
We weren't totally convinced that the value was there either, especially for a vegetarian (as a point of comparison, the Veg tasting menu, with 5 meze and dessert, is $40 at Oleana). Portions were quite small. We were still feeling a bit hungry after our dinner items, but it was unclear whether there were more specials forthcoming so we just opted for dessert, which is also fairly pricey at $10 a pop including one topping. Total was about $100 for two diners, including one drink each.
We will probably try Sarma again another time and sample more of the menu. It is certainly good, and a nice addition to the Somerville dining scene, but overall not as tasty as what we've experienced in other similarly priced (and cheaper) establishments in the area and not the gastronomic revelation we were hoping for.
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