The cuisine in Baltimore might not be as diverse as in some other cities, but Sajhoma is truly authentic Dominican fare.
Sajhoma (pronounced SA-homa) came on the scene in early March in Fells Point with an array of fare from the Caribbean homeland of its owners, Rodolfo and Erica Rodriguez.
The couple, whose family has restaurants in Brooklyn, N.Y., relocated here after visiting a relative who lived in Baltimore.
"I fell in love with it," Erica Rodriguez said.
In March, she and her husband opened the restaurant, which is named after Sajoma, their Dominican Republic town. They added an "h" to the restaurant name to make it easier to pronounce, Rodriguez said.
The family-friendly restaurant — a few storefronts from Broadway — is a comfortable setting to sample items from the regular menu or from the ever-changing vats of food displayed in a cafeteria-style station in the rear. The offerings in the pans range from goat stew to fried tilapia.
The extensive printed menu includes breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, lunch specials and meat and seafood entrees.
Sajhoma's signature dish is mofongo, which is a molded mound of fried, mashed green plantains highlighted with other flavors. For instance, we got mofongo with Spanish sausage. Other types feature cheese, chicken and shrimp.
The restaurant also touts its rotisserie chicken. It's a plus that you can get a quarter, half or whole bird, depending on your appetite or the number of people in your party.
Save room for dessert.
You don't want to miss the three-milks cake, or tres leches cake. The moist yellow square, topped with a whipped-cream frosting, sat in a delightful puddle of sweet milk. It's among the best we've had.
What was even sweeter was when a bunch of schoolchildren burst through the front door to greet their moms, who were working there, with kisses and hugs.
Sajhoma isn't far from home.
Scene & Decor The newly constructed dining room is clean and modern, with faux beige brick on the walls, stylish wood-like floors and colorful paintings of the Dominican countryside. There's a cozy, six-seat bar tucked into its own nook.
Appetizers After drooling over various dishes simmering in the back of the restaurant, we tried a small dish of beef stew ($7.50, a full portion is $9.95). The delicious bowl of tender meat, potatoes and carrots, enhanced by a flavorful gravy, was a great beginning. The conical-shaped mofongo ($9.95) with Spanish sausage was large enough to share. Denser than a potato pancake, the plantain mash was slightly dry and would have benefited from a sauce or liquid.
Entrees The tender, citrus-tinged octopus salad ($15.95) was a hit with its crisp mix of red and green peppers, celery and onions. We enjoyed a dish of sliced sweet plantains on the side. The roasted chicken (a quarter bird, $6) was juicy and meaty, complemented by white rice and beans in a tomato broth.
Drinks The freshly squeezed orange juice ($3) was a treat. Our iced tea ($1.50) was too heavy with sweetener for our taste. There are wines by the glass and bottle from Argentina, Chile and other countries. Cocktail specials on our visit included a mango martini and a Caribbean cognac margarita. You'll also find a Dominican beer, Presidente.
Service The waitresses were polite, friendly and efficient.
Dessert The three-milks cake ($3) was a luscious presentation of the Latin American classic. A slice of flan ($3) was also a nice finish. The baked custard, hinting of cinnamon, was glazed with a thin caramel sauce, sporting a cherry on top.