The award-winning Besharam has served Gujarati comfort at Dogpatch for three years and has opened and reopened three times, evolving the menu with every turn. The restaurant opened in 2018 as part of the Alta Restaurant group, when chef Daniel Patterson insisted the menu should include five or six animal proteins, while chef Heena Patel says he did. never really trusted her, a longtime vegetarian, to cook them. It annoyed Patel that no one asked a gourmet chef with a vegetarian menu, but “when it comes to cooking vegetarian meat, I’m treated like I don’t know what I’m doing”, a- she later told Eater SF. .
The restaurant relaunched in 2019 after Daniel Patterson’s partnerships with several notable chefs of color dissolved, and Patel secured his own funding and took full control of the menu. At this point, she’s down to just three options of meat, fish, lamb, and chicken, while making more snacks and pickles. Besharam won the Eater SF Restaurant of the Year award, a somewhat unorthodox choice given that the restaurant was technically in its second year, but recognition of the strength of its revival.
And now, reopening again in the summer of 2021, having changed the style of service several times during the pandemic, Patel is finally committing to an all-vegetarian menu. “I want to go back to my roots,” Patel says. “I want to showcase my food, without worrying about the quality or the poor quality, how people might perceive it. Sometimes with humble ingredients I’ve always wondered, “Is this good enough?” But I no longer doubt it. I have that confidence now.
The new menu is a more in-depth exploration of Gujarat, its home state in western India, and diners are invited to travel to four cities: Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot. Each section consists of three or four small dishes and a few main courses. So two people could easily order one city, or they could choose from the menu. As always, her husband and partner Paresh Patel will be a warm and wonderful presence in the dining room, the perfect diplomat to guide you on the journey.
The new menu is a more in-depth exploration of Gujarat, its home state in western India, and diners are invited to travel to four cities: Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot. Each section consists of three or four small dishes and a few main courses. So two people could easily order one city, or they could choose from the menu. As always, her husband and partner Paresh Patel will be a warm and wonderful presence in the dining room, the perfect host to guide you through the journey.
But this is not a literal travelogue. Chef Heena Patel’s dishes are always personal, filtered by her own memories and her particular taste for tender pasta, spicy snacks and tangy chutneys. She keeps some familiar comforts including Drunken Pani Puri, naughty Dahi Wada, and Paratha de Paresh stuffed with blue cheese. And by adding fresh dishes: Khichu, a spicy spread and crispy cracker rice paste, his father’s favorite midnight snack. Idla, a savory cake made with fermented dough and seasoned with black pepper. Mooli Kachori celebrates the humble radish, by cooking the bitter root and leaves, wrapping it in a buttered roast and topping it with a fresh salad. Khichdi is thick with dal and rice and garnished with fragrant black and white truffles. And the Ringan No Oro is inspired by its grandmother, who smoked eggplants over an open flame until they fell apart, before incorporating fresh garlic, roasted garlic and spices. .
Patel says she’s kept meat on the menu for so long because some diners still demand chicken curry. But that’s not her regional cuisine or her personal style, and she’s fed up with the over-generalization of Indian cuisine in the Bay Area. “It’s always ‘north’ or ‘south’,” Patel says. “But Gujarati food is itself a cuisine in its own right. Her husband eats meat – they’ve run a grocery store together for years, and she feels perfectly comfortable cooking meat – but that’s not the point. And the perception of the price of vegetarian food is an ongoing battle, even when something like Mooli Kachori takes so much work to break down radish in different ways. Yet Besharam literally means ‘shameless’, and Patel makes no apologies.
The final bone for carnivores could be the addition of Impossible Meat, which now appears in samosas and skewers. But, she promises, “you won’t miss it.”