Down Market Street in the FiDi there is no shortage of banks, high-end retail outlets, and museums. It’s a bustling, fast-paced neighborhood, and the only one in San Francisco where you might see someone wearing a suit. It’s also home to a tiny Himalayan-Nepalese restaurant whose story is just as heart arming as the food. Binita Pradhan, originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, came to the Bay Area in 2013 and immediately realized that she missed eating and cooking food from her home. After working her way through La Cocina’s incubator kitchen, she eventually developed the only Nepalese catering service in all of San Francisco.
The menu at Bini’s Kitchen is short, sweet, and cheap, the star being her beautiful little dumplings. Momos are “hot and juicy dumplings served with a spicy cilantro sauce.” Similar in shape and size to xiaolongbao — or Chinese soup dumplings — momos are a simple flour dough wrapped around meat or vegetables, pinched and pleated at the top, and steamed to a juicy perfection. In Bini’s case, they are prepared with lamb, turkey, or vegetables, then topped with a ladle of bright, spicy, and tangy cilantro sauce.
The texture and consistency resemble many dumplings from other Asian regions and countries, but their taste is completely their own. Momos have a rustic earthiness and powerful sapidity of peppers and tomato. The soft wrapper feels like homemade pasta and the wonderful sauce makes each little momo pop. The only downside to these little heavenly devils is that they can be hard to stop devouring once you start.
There are essentially only two other items on the menu, the “Nepalito” — a burrito with Nepali chicken curry, jeera rice pulao, pico de gallo, and homemade spicy sauce all wrapped in a wheat tortilla — and the Kwati, or Nepali-style chili. The Nepalito is one of the more underrated burritos in San Francisco, and one of those original fusion dishes that just makes perfect sense. The South Asian flavors of the chicken curry and jeera rice pulao work beautifully wrapped in a tortilla, and when you live in a place with some of the best burritos in the country, it’s nice to switch up the flavors every once in a while.
The Kwati is a vegetarian chili primarily made of a mixture of nine different types of sprouted beans, making it vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free for all of those with dietary restrictions. The chili is hearty and spicy with a deep red color, and it only costs $6. It’s the perfect light lunch on a breezy day downtown.
Bini’s momos and other traditional fares can be found all over the city, at Off-the-Grid, the Ferry Building, or “The Yard,” and even in certain Whole Foods around the city. (They’re a staple at Outside Lands, too.) Not only is Bini’s food fantastic, but her story is inspirational, and it’s tales of success like hers that make this city an amazing place to live and thrive. We’re lucky to have her!
Bini’s Kitchen, 1 Post St., 415-590-3087 or biniskitchen.com