The restaurant of San Francisco Base Camp offers a trip to Nepal


This is by far the most unique menu item in all of San Francisco: a $ 2,000 trip to Nepal.

On the menu at Base Camp, a Nepalese restaurant in the Mission, owner Suraksha Basnet offers chow mein (a typical “street food” from her country), bara (pancake with spicy yellow lentils), bhutuwa pork belly ( not often found in other regional cuisines of Nepal) and pakku (goat meat marinated for two days in mustard oil and other spices, then slowly cooked in a brass pot). The dishes reflect his experience of living in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu.

She also offers another way to explore the sights and sounds of her home country: a journey, with herself as a member of the group.


Basnet, now 32, grew up in eastern Nepal during the country’s civil war from 1996 to 2006, when the Communist Party of Nepal struggled to overthrow the monarchy that had ruled the country since 1768. “C ‘was chaotic, “she said. . “Deep in my head, [me and] my friends, we all knew we were going to leave sooner or later.

She went to a boarding school in Darjeeling, India, and eventually went to Kathmandu for high school and university. Her parents sought asylum in the United States in 2012, when they visited Basnet’s sister for her college degree in North Carolina. In November 2013, Basnet and the rest of his family, including his parents, moved to East Bay.

After obtaining his work visa two weeks after moving here, Basnet began his career in American restaurants as a busser at Skates on the Bay in Berkeley. After five years of hard work and savings, she decided it was time to take a risk and open her own spot.

She opened Dancing Yak (280 Valencia Street) in 2018, showcasing popular Nepalese dishes like curries and momos (Nepalese dumplings), then a year later opened Base Camp, an attempt to talk more about her experience in Kathmandu. , specifically.

“I grew up around restaurants. Cooking is part of the culture of a Nepalese woman. But not in a bad way. We learn to cook from a young age and it’s always something that I have enjoyed, ”she says. “I think deep in my head I always knew I wanted to have a restaurant.

The base camp menu highlights what she ate in Kathmandu – fewer curries, more small plates, which she often enjoyed in the cafes that inspired her second restaurant.

Owner Suraksha Basnet pictured in the dining room at Base Camp restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

PATRICIA CHANG / Special SFGATE

The interior is a little corner of Nepal. A traditional hand-carved wooden Buddha altar hangs on the back wall as a kind of centerpiece. The meticulous craftsmanship is evident, even from a distance. Black and white photos of his country and people adorn the surrounding walls, along with other Nepalese artwork. Red tassels hang around the ceiling, juxtaposing yellow blinds and throw cushions on sofas for back tables.

Having both restaurants at the Mission has always been her first choice. “I felt like the people there would understand who I was and what I was trying to do,” she says. “I try to describe myself and my journey, from the ambiance to the food and everything in between. I really feel connected to the Mission.

The Dining Room at Base Camp Restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

The Dining Room at Base Camp Restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

PATRICIA CHANG / Special SFGATE

“Whenever I tell people that I’m from Nepal, I feel like they are looking at me with some form of love and respect,” she continues. “We are known for our hospitality. We are known for welcoming people. It just makes me strive to be better when I talk to others.

Now Basnet wants to show people that hospitality in person. So she added a trip to Nepal as one of the base camp restaurant offerings. And not metaphorically – a real, real expedition.

The last time Basnet visited her home country in January and February this year, she brought back a large batch of timmur, a spice common in Nepal but not often found in the United States. United. tourism industry; many of her friends work in industry, and Basnet herself was a translator after college.

Owner Suraksha Basnet at Base Camp Restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

Owner Suraksha Basnet at Base Camp Restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

PATRICIA CHANG / Special SFGATE

With her means and connections at home – and without the help of a third-party tourism company – she and her friends hatched a plan to start their own tourism adventure. They called it “Nepal Expedition”.

Although Basnet will not be guiding the trip herself (as she does not have an active guide license), the expedition takes travelers to Kathmandu to explore the city as she experienced it, as well as a hike to Khumbu Glacier at the foot of Mount Everest. . ” It is important that [my friends and I] let’s do this because we know where to eat, we know where to go for a drink, ”she explained. “And [when you are trekking near the Himalayas] we know how to take care of yourself, how to acclimatize to the altitude, at what pace to walk and what to eat.

While originally it was a creative way to help her friends come back from the worst of the pandemic, it now also helps her connect with the way of life she was used to in Nepal: one of connection. with people, one of community.

“In a restaurant here [in America] you come, you eat, you go, ”she said. “What I’m trying to do at base camp, with Expedition Nepal, is different. I’m trying to make some kind of connection because that’s what I’m used to in Nepal.

Decorations at the Base Camp restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

Decorations at the Base Camp restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

PATRICIA CHANG / Special SFGATE

Basnet was able to find her community in East Bay, where, she says, many Nepalese families live in Richmond, El Sobrante and Pinole. She has seen the number of Nepalese families on her street increase dramatically over the years. This is how immigrant communities work: no one knows who arrived first, but word of mouth leads more and more people to introduce themselves.

But while Basnet feels at home in her community of Richmond, some things will never be the way they were home again. “Coming here and working in a very fast paced environment, a very competitive environment, that makes me leave,” she says. “But growing up in a country with a culture of not rushing things, it’s a little hard to balance sometimes.”

April 18, 2022, cannot arrive early enough for Basnet. This is when the inaugural expedition begins. She looks forward to making lasting friendships. She expects these hikers to return to San Francisco base camp and become regulars in the Nepalese restaurant and way of life. At least that’s its end goal.

Framed photographs in the dining room of the Base Camp restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

Framed photographs in the dining room of the Base Camp restaurant on December 10, 2021 in San Francisco.

PATRICIA CHANG / Special SFGATE

But above all, she is delighted to return home.

She’s used to local faces. People greet each other when they enter a restaurant. Everyone knows everyone, even the kitchen staff. She looks forward to being enveloped in the warm hospitality of her people.

Despite the challenges Nepal has endured, Basnet looks forward to the calm his country brings. “What I miss most sometimes is sitting around and doing nothing. It’s easy to ignore it, ”she recalled. “Sometimes I feel like no matter how badly I want, I never catch up.”


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