photo credit: Stephanie Court
At the back of Besharam, there’s a mural of a woman. She looks like someone who recently just told a wild story of a random connection she made at late night roller disco. The full account exists on the internet somewhere as an extended Twitter thread. Variations of this woman are all over the restaurant’s plates marked with sayings like, “Spicy Food Is For Spicy Girls” and “Hot Chai, Cold Revenge.”
The wall (painted by subversive artist Hatecopy) exudes Beyoncé and Ali Wong-level confidence—just like the upscale-leaning Gujarati restaurant in the Dogpatch. At Besharam, dishes are intensely flavored and have an assertive vision: spotlight western Indian food and remix them with new ingredients.
This spot dropped meat from the menu and revamped it (for the second time) in summer 2021. Four sections highlight flavors from major cities in Gujarat, each with a handful of vegetarian small plates and mains. Mix and match, or stick with one region—just don’t expect a traditional Gujarati spread. We’d recommend playing roulette with the menu, as the odds of picking a winner are extremely high. But many of the best dishes are those that pack some heat, like the fire charred eggplant with garlic confit that tastes like a smokey open flame or the buttery malai koftas covered in velvety, richly spiced tomato-based sauce.
Across all sections of the menu, you’ll find that Besharam pulls from the Make-Your-Own-Rules playbook. Yes, that’s blue cheese in the parathas, and bitter melon in the sticky chutney. Garlicky pea shoots and raita are heaped atop tender Impossible kebabs. And mint-infused tamarind water for the crispy pani puri contains actual gin.
But Besharam’s originality is only part of what makes it special. This personal place taps into chef Heena Patel’s family recipes and childhood memories. She’s a mainstay in the open kitchen—which, fittingly, is bordered by the mural—and frequently looks up into the industrial-style space to send calm energy while her husband works the floor. “Is this your first time here?” he might ask, like an excited old friend. The restaurant is also located in an area that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, so expect easygoing dinners that won’t result in you accidentally bumping into someone in a puffer zip up. The neon Besharam sign points the way.
Drunken Pani Puri
We get into easily excitable yorkipoo pup mode whenever we think about the drunken pani puri. The semolina puffs are delicate. The mix inside this edition is a light potato, peas, and onion mash, but what really perks us up is the herby lemon and tamarind water with actual gin. We bet good money you’ll try to sip it like a cocktail instead of pouring the liquid into each puff.
Ringan No Oro
The mashed eggplant with garlic confit and urfa chili taste like it was forged in the fires of Mount Doom. Yes, a Tolkien reference, and yes, the smokiness in this dish is powerful and overwhelming. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Candy Karela Pickles
There’s also a section of pickled things ($4 each), like a chili garlic and shredded mango and black mustard. Hone in on the candy karela. It’ll go well with pretty much whatever else you order, but you’ll probably end up treating it like a side dish and eating it by itself anyway—it’s that good.
The creamy stew is coconut-y and aromatic. It’s also one of the milder options on the menu, and comes topped with a decent portion of purple potatoes and okra.
We’d choose the maska paneer for our team any day. That’s because the salty cheese is made in house and then crumbled all over the spinach-based sauce. This dish must be on your table.
An incredibly light and plump samosa. Nothing more, nothing less. Two per order.
The menu section dedicated to chutneys is worth your attention. The five offerings are made in house and range from sweet (like pounded mango) to spicy (like one with ghost peppers and urfa chili). Our favorite is the mint cilantro which slowly builds heat. Getting one or two with your meal is one way to take it to the next level, but isn’t essential, especially since each is an additional $3.
The paneer croquettes are buttery and creamy. And the spicy sauce builds heat. The only downside to this velvety dish is there are just three croquettes but a swimming pool’s worth of makhani sauce, so order theplas or rice with it.