If the most exciting thing that happened to you this week was seeing the trailer for the next season of a British TV show you binged last summer, then it’s time to kick things up a notch. You need to add some intensity to your everyday life, but how? Replacing Alexa’s voice with Liam Neeson’s is one option, changing your alarm clock tone to the song from Requiem For A Dream is another. Joining an underground boxing club is probably your best bet, but if you’re wary of spending the night in the basement of a 7-Eleven while a man named Tiny wires your jaw shut, we’ve got another suggestion for you. Eat dinner at Sarma, a Mediterranean restaurant in Winter Hill with very intense food that will be the highlight of your week.
At this point, you might be sick of small plates and overwhelmed by menus that are the size of a small town’s phone book. Those are understandable complaints, but they don’t apply at Sarma, even though it has both. The plates here are small for a reason - they’re each perfectly composed with what seems like 30 different ingredients, giving you what feels like a full meal after just a few bites. A single date becomes a self-contained feast - wrapped in venison with Turkish coffee, pistachio labne, and pomegranate. And instead of your typical mint and rice stuffed grape leaves, the ones here get scallops, mushrooms, and lemony egg sauce made with miso, and yuzu. Each dish is a clown car of ingredients (and there are no crying children in sight).
Unfortunately, this place is so popular that getting in the door isn’t easy. Despite the fact that Sarma is hidden behind Somerville High School in a nondescript part of Winter Hill, the colorful dining room is packed every night and perpetually booked a week or two in advance. But if you can’t get a reservation, know that the bar opens up at 5pm, a half-hour earlier than the rest of the restaurant. You can’t order food right away, but you can enjoy a couple of drinks while the kitchen finishes their prep work in front of you, and then shift to dinner when they start serving at 5:30.
Once you get to the food, you’ll find that whatever you needed to do to get in the door was worth it. There’s never a bad time to come here, but with a creative cocktail list and a manageable price point, it’s particularly great for a date (if nothing else, the crazy flavor combinations will always give you something to talk about). But don’t be afraid to come here alone - you’ll find yourself surrounded by so many friendly people that you can convince yourself you went to a party. It’s exactly what you need to forget about your boring workweek. And your health insurance probably doesn’t cover back-alley shoulder relocations, anyway.
The date in this case really just acts as a glue to hold a bunch of great things together: venison, pistachio labne, pomegranate and Turkish coffee. Unlike what happened in kindergarten, though, no one’s going to have a concerned talk with your parents about eating the glue.
Lamb Kofte Sliders
This actually might be the simplest dish on the menu, as the sliders are topped with nothing more than brown butter, pickles, and tomato. But when the lamb is perfectly cooked as it is here, that’s all you need.
Portable mousaka! What a great idea - let’s see if we can make portable lasagna, lobster bisque, or seven-layer nachos next. If we could eat more things as good as these croquettes on the go, the world would be a better place.
We’re not embarrassed to say that we’d gladly eat the miso, mushroom, and yuzu sauce that these grape leaves are served in like a soup.
We believe that any food termed “Sicilian” should be mandated by law to come with a canoli. This squid doesn’t have one, but pumpkin, polenta, parmesan, and escarole caponata is pretty good nonetheless.
Black Sesame Eggplant
Don’t be fooled by the fact that there’s no meat in here, this skewered eggplant dish is one of the heavier things on the menu. The peanut dukkah it’s topped with should top every vegetable from now on.
Sweet Potato Katayif
We’re not going to bother arguing about whether you can still call something ketchup when it’s made with white fig, we’re just going to tell you that it’s great (especially when it also comes with bacon and halloumi cheese).