Sortun opened Oleana in 2001 to national acclaim and followed it with Sofra, a Middle Eastern bakery in Watertown. Cassie Piuma, Sortun’s longtime chef de cuisine at Oleana, will be a partner and the executive chef of Sarma.
We spoke to Sortun about the new project:
Zagat: What is the concept?
Sortun: It’s modeled after a traditional meyhane [pronounce may-hanee] - a meze restaurant in Istanbul with all small plates. So it’s comparable to a tapas restaurant, but it’s not tapas or dim sum. In a meyhane they bring around platters of meze, so there will be some of that. We've got a large bar program and we're going to try to do fun cocktails with spices - not spicy, but with spices like mastic.
Z: What’s the price point for the meze?
Sortun: About $7-$14.
Z: What about dessert?
Sortun: We’re going to keep it simple. If I say it and we don’t do it…
Z: Now that Cassie is leaving Oleana for Sarma, who will be the new chef de cuisine at Oleana?
Sortun: Kara Tobin-Chigazola, who’s been the sous chef. We’ve been working on this for two and a half years. People are being carefully groomed.
Z: What’s going on with Sarma now?
Sortun: It’s in the middle of construction, about one-third the way through, putting in electricity and plumbing - all the important stuff. Once that’s done it should go quickly.
Z: Tell us about the interior.
Sortun: We’ll have about 80 seats and a large bar - about 15 seats at the bar, which will be the focal point of the restaurant. We’ll have a prep table in the middle and a cook preparing cold meze. We brought our designer to Istanbul, so it will feel very Turkish without being ethnic. A lot of color and brightness, like going to the Grand Bazaar. An incredible tile floor.
Z: What about hours?
Sortun: It’s dinner-only, with an early bar that will open at 5 PM and dinner at 5:30 PM seven days a week.
Z: Any outdoor dining?
Sortun: Not from the get-go. Somerville has some plans, and so we’re at the mercy of the city.
Z: Tell us about the space.
Sortun: It’s the old Paddock. It was a local institution on Winter Hill for a long time. [James Joseph] “Whitey” Bulger [Jr.] used to hang out there. We burned a lot of sage getting all the Whitey Bulger stuff out.