Sarma – Boston Magazine Hall of Famer

We are halfway through the year and halfway through the list. Sarma was our fifth Boston Magazine Hall of Fame Restaurants visit. The food is Mediterranean tapas. The menu is long and even though they suggest 2-3 courses per person, I was completely stuffed by the end of the meal. I will also note, that the menu is not very suitable to people with nut allergies. When we arrived they gave us an allergy friendly menu, which had about half of the courses crossed out, including some of the most exciting ones.

I went to Sarma years ago, long before the pandemic. Back then the menu was small, and the service was like dim sum. Servers brought around big trays of food, offered it to your table, and marked a card when you picked it. It was a lot of fun, a unique experience. I don’t know if the pandemic killed it or if it went away before then, but I missed it. They still pass one dish, the sesame fried chicken, and of course we got that. Still, I wish there was more.

In addition to the chicken, we tried five other dishes. First came the Spicy Feta Toast. It is more or less a feta grilled cheese with bread on the top and the bottom with roasted figs perched on top. A Greek salad tapenade cut through the richness of the cheese, keeping the dish bright even though it was quite filling.

Next came the heavenly Blackened Shrimp, two incredible skewers, the first with four well seasoned shrimp and the second with four cucumber wrapped grilled haloumi. The best course of the meal, the skewers were quite different but compatible, brought together by a watermelon ezme. The richness of the cheese was once again tamed by the sweetness of the shrimp and the watermelon.

Lamb Kofte Sliders continued the parade of heavy food. These not so small burgers were flavorful and rich. Bold lamb flavor and sumac onions dominated the dish. They were delicious but with a side of fries could have been a complete meal all by themselves. The Brussels Sprouts Bravas, a play on patatas bravs, came out just seconds later. For an additional two dollars they come with chorizo. They also come topped with hazelnuts so I was on my own to eat them all.

The last menu item was the Hot Crab Dip. I would have preferred it earlier in the meal, but I did enjoy the fried artichokes that topped it. Very cheesy and served with crispy pita chips, it is a very good version of crab dip.

It would probably have been wise to stop here. Five dishes was more than enough food, but it was too hard to pass up the sesame chicken that was being brought around. It is a signature dish that I have had a Sarma before and one that should not be missed. Skin on chicken thighs are dipped in buttermilk, breaded, and deep fried. They are served on top of a creamy yogurt sauce. They aren’t on the menu but make their way around the dining room every so often. Don’t be shy. If you see them coming, flag down the server to make sure you get them before everyone else does.

In addition to good food, Sarma makes some amazing cocktails. The Nigroni Vivaldi is a bright twist on a classic. They start with their own gin, bottled for them by Bully Boy Distillers in Boston. Instead of Campari, they add a citrusy amaro, then French Vermouth, and finally peach. Also excellent is the Pearl Side, a gin drink that includes herbs, lime, and mastic, a rarely seen Greek ingredient that is sweet and herbal. If gin is not your thing, try the Lost in Paradise, a pineapple-rum cocktail that is dessert in a glass or one of their Greek or Lebanese wines.

Six courses and drinks at Sarma is sure to fill you up, but it doesn’t come cheap. Dinner for two rang in over $300. The menu is unique and the execution is superb, so you get what you pay for. I wish they had been more willing to alter the menu to accommodate my wife’s nut allergy. I also think it is a better restaurant for four people than for two. You get to work though more of the menu the more people you have. Guests should also be warned that parking is extremely limited and there is no valet.

Sarma deserves its place among Boston’s best restaurants. The Blackened Shrimp dish alone is good enough reason to visit. I’m not sure if the dim sum style will come back, but I’m hoping because it was a wonderful way to eat. At least you can still snag some chicken as it makes its way around the dining room. Until then, bring a bunch of friends and try a bunch of different dishes.

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