Experience flavorful and creative Gujarati dishes at Besharam, take a break from sandwiches and dig into stuffed arepas instead for lunch, try some fun ice cream flavors for Halloween (complete with critters!), and don’t miss La Cocina’s upcoming F&B: Voices from the Kitchen performances.
Take a Trip to the Cheese Island at Besharam
Have you had a chance to visit Heena Patel’s Besharam in Dogpatch/Potrero Hill yet? It’s a stylish and vibrant restaurant, just next door to the Minnesota Street Project art galleries (it was formerly Alta). Things have fully ramped up, with a cocktail list in place, weekend brunch in effect, and both lunch and dinner service humming along as well. A La Cocina business incubator graduate, this is Heena’s first restaurant — in partnership with Daniel Patterson’s Alta Group — and she’s working closely with her husband, Paresh. The name Besharam translates to “shameless,” inspired by the fact that at 50, she’s following her own dreams and doing something that is risky and fear-inducing. Fortunately for us, she took a leap of faith.
Heena’s menu highlights Gujarati dishes, flavors, and family recipes, along with some California seasonality infused with her unique brand of culinary creativity. Heena doesn’t eat meat, so the menu has some fantastic vegetarian options that won’t have you missing anything meaty, although they do a great job here with chicken makhani, full of deep spice and the perfect amount of heat. The menu is constantly changing, with new dishes added all the time, so return visits offer an opportunity to try new things.
Heena tells me that if you mention the dish handvo, people immediately know you are Gujarati. She says every house makes their own version of this savory bread that uses vegetables and flours rich in protein, like lentil, and it’s popular as a sustaining snack served alongside chai. At Besharam, the handvo ($9) is an appetizer of sesame-topped bread that she makes with a mix of flours, like lentil, millet, quinoa, or pigeon pea, keeping it gluten-free. She also likes to add leftover vegetables, just like her grandma would, using zucchini, sweet potato, cilantro, onion, or maybe leftover cucumber, which helps keep it moist (it’s like a delicate and savory zucchini bread with a little kick!). I’d love to figure out how to make this at home for a nutritious and sustaining snack bread to have around.
But the absolute showstopper is the desi pardesi ($20). It’s a bowl of a curry leaf and leek soup, thickened like a smooth dal, with a mozzarella-stuffed rice ball in the middle, an island of cheesy delight. Heena is inspired by all the Italian ingredients and flavors she enjoys here in San Francisco. She coats the fresh mozzarella ball with her samosa mix, basil, mashed basmati rice, egg, and panko, and then fries it. It’s a play on a samosa with chutney, but instead, you break the fried ball open, and the creamy, mozzarella cheese runs into the soup—this is when you grab your spoon. Your table will hopefully share nicely, all the way until it gets down to the last drops of this perfectly spiced and satisfying dish. Our table almost ordered another just because we were sad when it was over!