The cuisine of India is distinctly regional and deeply delicious.
"If you go to India, every region you go to you'll be like 'this food is amazing'. Every region is so flavorful. It's like a symphony or spices and different exotic flavors," said Preeti Agarwal, the chef/owner of Meesha, located in the heart of Fremont.
"Meesha means 'that brings a smile to your face'. That's the concept I wanted to bring here," explained Agarwal. "This is upscale, modern Indian food with really good ambiance, good music and a really cool cocktail program as well."
A self-taught chef, Agarwal's love of food was ingrained at an early age by her family. Some of the dishes are inspired by her mom and her grandmother. Others are fine dining twists on regional staples.
"Keema Pao comes from the Mumbai region. It's a street food there. You make this amazing, fragrant ground lamb with a lot of black cardamom, all the exotic species. Then you put that on top of a mini brioche slider," explained Agarwal. "For vegetarians we have a really good menu. We do this Moonglet, which is like a vegan version of an omelet. We make it with lentils. We soak [them] overnight then grind them with ginger, cilantro, lots of cool spices. We make it like a crepe and garnish it with pickled potatoes, radishes and some other veggies on top. It's one of our best sellers."
The success of Meesha didn't happen overnight. In fact, Meesha started as an ultra-popular pop-up.
"The pop-up actually made me what I am today. The famous chef Eric Rivera of Seattle, he introduced me to this concept and he invited me to do a tasting menu for 16 people with one of my friends who is also an amazing cook," said Agarwal. "That's how my clientele started building up. Every time there were people asking, when is the next pop-up?"
Ultimately, Agarwal started looking for a space to call her own. Instead of building a new restaurant from scratch, she decided to buy an existing one, a French place called Pomerol. The goal, change diners mentality about Indian food.
"With Indian food there is some kind of thing where people think it's supposed to be really cheap. So I was looking for a restaurant I could just run as is and introduce my dishes once a month. People who are already coming to a French place, they know French food is not cheap. So, they would expect the food quality, the pice and the ambiance [to be] upscale," explained Agarwal. "And people started coming and they were like, 'Why are you not doing this full time? Just change the whole French menu', because whatever I brought to the menu, they were loving it."
The French menu went out the window when the pandemic hit. Meesha started with takeout while Agarwal remodeled the entire restaurant to, finally, make it feel like her own.
"I wanted to make it more like a Seattle upscale [restaurant] with an Art Deco style and some eclectic stuff," said Agarwal. "I don't want people to think 'Oh, it's just an Indian restaurant'. It should feel beautiful. It should just feel beautiful."
Agarwal hopes that beauty is reflected equally in the dishes emerging from the kitchen and the way guests feel when they walk out the door.
"It should be the total package. I really want [our guests] to have an amazing experience they don't forget. They should be able to taste the spices and take all the fragrant foods with them home."
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