Restaurant menu

Chef Heena Patel removes meat from menu at Besharam restaurant

Award-winning Besharam has served Gujarati comfort at Dogpatch for three years and has opened and reopened three times, evolving the menu with each 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 didn’t. never really trusted, a lifelong vegetarian, to cook them. It angered Patel that no one had interviewed a gourmet chef offering a vegetarian menu, but “when it comes to vegetarian meat, I’m treated like I don’t know what I’m doing,” he said. she later told Eater SF. .

The restaurant was 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 that point, she dropped to just three options of meat, fish, lamb, and chicken, while making more snacks and pickles. Besharam won SF Eater Restaurant of the Year, a somewhat unorthodox choice given the restaurant was technically in its second year, but an acknowledgment of the strength of its relaunch.

And now, reopening again in the summer of 2021, after changing service styles several times during the pandemic, Patel is finally committing to an all-vegetarian menu. “I want to go back to my roots,” says Patel. “I want to showcase my food, without worrying about the quality, about people’s perception. Sometimes, with humble ingredients, I always wondered, “Is this good enough?” But I no longer doubt it. I have that confidence now.

Eric Wolfinger

The new menu is a deeper exploration of Gujarat, its home state in western India, and diners are taken on a journey through four cities: Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot. Each section has three or four smaller dishes and a few main courses. So two people could easily order just 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 through the journey.

The new menu is a deeper exploration of Gujarat, its home state in western India, and diners are taken on a journey through four cities: Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot. Each section has three or four smaller dishes and a few main dishes. So two people could easily order just 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 special taste for tender pastas, spicy snacks and tangy chutneys. She keeps a few familiar comforts, including drunken Pani Puri, sassy Dahi Wada, and blue cheese-stuffed Paratha de Paresh. And adding fresh dishes: Khichu, a spicy rice dough rolled and crispy in a cracker, his father’s favorite midnight snack. Idla, a savory cake made with a fermented batter and seasoned with black pepper. Mooli Kachori celebrates the humble radish by cooking the bitter root and leaves, wrapping it in a buttery roast and garnishing it with a fresh salad. Khichdi is thick with dal and rice and topped with fragrant black and white truffles. And the Ringan No Oro is inspired by his grandmother, who smoked eggplant over an open flame until it crumbled, before incorporating fresh garlic, roasted garlic and spices.

Patel says she has kept meat on the menu for so long because some diners still demand chicken curry. But it’s not her regional cuisine or her personal style, and she’s had enough of the over-generalization of Indian cuisine in the Bay Area. “It’s always ‘north’ or ‘south’,” says Patel. “But Gujarati food is itself a cuisine in its own right.” Her husband eats meat – they ran a grocery store together for years, and she feels perfectly comfortable cooking meat – but that’s beside the point. And the price perception of vegetarian food is an ongoing battle, even when something like the Mooli Kachori takes so much work to break down the radish in so many different ways. Still, 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 kebabs. But, she promises, “you won’t miss it.”