Archive for the ‘Middle Eastern’ Category

Sarma – Defying Definition.

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie: Recommends

Sarma = “wrapped; enveloped; rolled up; a bundle of food that is bite sized and served as a meze. An embrace.”

Also: A third restaurant by Ana Sortun (Oleana, Sofra), this time in partnership with her Chef de Cuisine at Oleana, Cassie Piuma.

Meyhane = A traditional restaurant or bar typical of Iran, Turkey and the Balkans. It combines copious booze with meze plates. “Meyhane” literally means, “wine house.”

Crab & Red Lentil Kibbeh = An interesting take on the meat torpedoes that come to mind when I think of Kibbeh. This time, India meets Middle East meets Maryland. A lightly crispy cake of delicate crab and lentil swims in a fragrant coconut curry and is crowned by a refreshing green papaya slaw and zhoug, which is Israeli hot sauce. Perfection.

India, Turkey, and Maryland

Lamb Souvlakia = Tender skewers of shish-kebab style lamb over gigante beans, olive and dill. Refined and absolutely delicious.

Shish Up

Feta Cheese Gnocchi = Fresh gnocchi oozing with warm feta and topped with VIP mushrooms and peas. All of which is engulfed in a tomato-based broth with metaxa (Greek brandy). Though I don’t like the way both the Greek and Italian footballing teams play the beautiful game, combining the culinary traditions of both these great countries is gorgeous.

Greek Pasta

Kunefe = A dessert-worthy sweet cheese pastry topped with citrus, saffron honey, and pistachio accompanied by a delightfully refreshing salad of crinkled cress, golden and red beets and orange supremes.


Passed Plates = An ingenious way to do the nightly specials. Servers will periodically present heartier meze plates to your table throughout the meal which, should you choose to accept them, are tallied on a little card that is placed on your table. I found these plates to be more gratuitous than uniquely special, and decided that they would be better enjoyed as bar snacks should one choose to eat dinner around Sarma’s spacious bar area. I selected a fried soft-shell crab plate (because I couldn’t resist). Though tasty, it didn’t exactly mesh with the meze-theme of the menu.

Loukamades with Halva Caramel Topping = And then comes dessert. Just ‘cause. Ricotta munchkins made up of hot, moist fried dough. Drenched in halva caramel. Cue the Marvin Gaye and Barry White.

Order this now.

Sarma is a place that requires a panoply of definitions to begin to define, and even then I can’t do justice to the experience of dining there.  At the end of the day, you’ll just have to put down the dictionary and opt for experiential learning.

Foodie out.

Amsterdam Falafel Shop – A Red Light District for Chickpeas

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Location: Somerville, MA

The Foodie Says: Cosi-Cosi









Anyone who has been to Amsterdam and ventured outside the famed red light district will tell you that there is much more to this beautiful city than x-rated window shopping…great food, a beautiful riverboat tour, one of the skinniest buildings in the world, and lots of Van Gogh (best enjoyed after a few space cakes).

Similarly, there is much more to the world of falafel than Amsterdam Falafel Shop – but for an area starved for good fried chickpeas it’s a start.

AFS is a falafel shop with roots in Washington, DC that has decided to branch out and open a shop in the area where most future presidents get their Harvard degree and where most future diplomats pick up a few classes at the Fletcher School. Might as well feed your future leaders well as they feed their brains, right?

Here’s how the assembly-line format at AFS works:

  1. Order your falafel sandwich or falafel plate
  2. Load up on a wide assortment of toppings that include: pickled everything, cucumber + tomato, tahini, cabbage, hummus, yogurt sauce, spicy red stuff, etc.
  3. Devour

The falafel sandwich is pretty good, but I’ve had much better elsewhere. I take issue with the hard, crunchy, and slightly dry variety they are serving here. The toppings really save the day along with the pillow-soft pitas that they serve the falafel with. But the main event is a bit lackluster.

Amsterdam also boasts fries with a variety of interesting dipping sauces. Again, the fries are seriously lacking but are saved by an especially good curried ketchup dipping sauce.

So it appears a trend is surfacing here – AFS dresses-up their fare pretty well but misses the mark on the main events.

Like a tourist making a beeline for the red light district, AFS needs a better map of falafelville. But until better eats in this genre hit the area, I’m sticking with my Chickpea Fritter from Clover Food Lab.

Oleana – Better Stats Than Your Favorite Ball-Throwing Sport

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Strongly Recommends

If you’ve been a reader of the Foodie for long, you’ll know that I like to stay hip with the newest, swankiest grub parlors in town…but every once in a while I like to throw a shout-out to one of my long-time favorites.

That shout for this week is going out to Oleana.

This is an all-star restaurant with stats like [insert your favorite jock here]. Here is what the back of my “culinary card” would look like for Oleana:

  • A.N.R. (Average Notice for Reservation) – 1 to 2 weeks advance call-ahead for party of two
  • G.M.R. (Good Meal Ratio) – 100% (4 out of 4)
  • All-Star Chef Award Winner – Ana Sortun has been one of my favorite local kitchen-wizards for years and deserves praise for legitimately expanding my palate as an eater.
  • K.A.M.L. (Kick-Ass-Meals-Lineup):
    • Fish filet cooked sous-vide in paper with butter, truffle, and cauliflower.
    • Awesome little greek sausages
    • Delicate fish and chorizo in broth
    • Fresh burrata with zucchini fritters with greens and a spicy sauce
    • Filet of halibut in mild broth with crispy prosciutto and couscous “cubes”
    • Y.I.B.C.H.  (Years I’ve Been Coming Here) – 7
    • Gourmet Food Sourcing Award – Sortun owns a farm that supplies a good many ingredients incorporated into the meals here and at her bakery, Sofra.
    • A.P.E. (Awesome Patio Eatery) – Oleana’s outdoor eating area is spacious and beautiful – adorned with herbs, plants, and Mediterranean pieces of flair. Heck, they’ve even got a pear tree back there.
    • U.D.S.P.R. (Ubiquitous Dollar Sign Price Range) – $$$ (25-30 per entrée)

Beyond these key stats, I’ll throw in a lil’ narrative here as well to guide your next meal at Oleana. Looking at my patented “K.A.M.L.” metric above, I’ll say that these guys definitely know how to cook their fish. I have never gone wrong with a dish harkening to the sea here. Also, there are always a ton of well-appointed appetizers rich in exotic spices, purées, veggies, and cheeses. So, load up on the front end, order yourself a baller main plate, and sip a little vino from the always-excellent wine list. Finally – Oleana has some bench strength in the kitchen and always has a pimpin’ pastry and dessert lineup spearheaded by the pastry chef.

With stats like this – what’s not to like? So choose Oleana this winter sports season along with the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins (that is if they’re not extinct due to bickering between millionaires and billionaires)

Sofra – A Slice of the Middle East in Eastern Mass

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Location: Cambridge, MA

The Foodie: Recommends








In a court of food, a raw-yer (get it?) could argue that Ana Sortun is the chef to most successfully bring Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine to Eastern Massachusetts and the North Atlantic.

So a few years ago when I discovered she had opened a bakery and café in a remote corner of Cambridge to build off the success of Oleana I was particularly jazzed.

I’ve been over here several times and never left disappointed – they manage to squeeze fistfuls of culinary delights into a small space. Think amazing falafel and shawarma, a slew of baked goods, spices for purchase, and even fresh eggs (presumably from the farm that Sortun and family runs).

A recent trip here brought joy upon joy in the form of Turkish coffee, a little sausage and broccoli rabe sandwich, a nice quiche-like pastry and the ever-famous egg shakshouka (find out about that one on your own).

Sortun offers you all this and more in a well-designed (yet tiny) space. Sofra is best enjoyed in the following formats:

  • Order a sandwich for take-out. Sip a Turkish coffee while you wait.
  • Bring a slew of pastries home to gorge upon
  • Come with a small crew and hover over people to grab a seat for weekend breakfast
  • Experience Sofra in warmer weather and chill in a small space for outdoor seating

In any form of edible excursion here however – you will be found guilty of gluttony.

Eat on,

Nick the Foodie.