Selva – A flashy and flavourful experience awaits
|Location||211 Richmond Street West|
|Dinner for two with drinks||$150|
As a child, I fondly remember eating at Yorkdale’s Rainforest Café circa the late 1990s, completely captivated by its jungle vibes. Yes, the food was disgusting and outrageously overpriced, but people willingly paid for the multi-sensory experience. It was a destination.
When I recently dined at Toronto’s newest immersive restaurant experience, Selva, all the nostalgia of the Rainforest Café came rushing back—in a more refined way. Selva is smack dab in the heart of the entertainment district and is owned by Oliver Geddes (The Fifth Social Club). Nuit Regular (Pai, Kiin, etc.) has curated a menu that’s a flavourful fusion of Thai and South American cuisine, with heavy emphasis on the latter. With brimming praise for all of Chef Nuit’s ventures to date, I was curious to see how Selva measured up. Would the vibrant, showy ambiance complement la nourriture?
Bright eyed and curious, I entered the black-lit lower-level restaurant, drawn in by its jungle-themed décor and neon artwork. It felt like the nightclubs I used to frequent in my youth. As the hostess led my guest and me to our table, my eyes didn’t know where to look. Floor to ceiling murals by Clandestinos Art—including a starry sky on the ceiling and a lion with piercing fluorescent eyes staring straight at me—were some of the artistic features I noticed first. As we were being seated, the hostess mentioned we could freely wander around the space to view the artwork in more detail, which was part of the immersive experience. The spacious dining area was buzzing with patrons, including many tourists and suburbanites.
The QR-accessible menu led us down a delicious path. Our server explained that Chef Nuit’s menu consisted of shareable dishes that were brought to life in their artistic presentations, fusing elements of South American cuisine with hints of her Thai roots. My mouth started salivating as I read the description of the corn fritters ($14), “sweet corn fritters lightly coated in a red curry taste and magrud lime leaf batter, deep-fried, and served with a plum-coriander sauce.” The fritters were delightfully crispy and punched up with the spicy-sweet plum-coriander sauce. A perfect start. Next up was the coconut ceviche ($18), which was one of the most popular items from the ceviche section, our server mentioned. My eyes were drawn to the various components of the dish—from the milky white flesh of the fresh young coconut to the delicate cubes of sweet potato and slices of red serrano chili. A visual masterpiece for certain, and the flavours were on point too, thanks to the magrud lime, which was flown in from Thailand. I only wish I was given a spoon to top my remaining tortilla chips as there was no easy way to consume the coconutty mixture with a fork.
An ode to her Thai roots, the fresh salad rolls ($11) were dainty rainbow parcels containing cucumber, mango, red bell pepper, mint and more. The mint-coriander dipping sauce was a perfect complement to the lightness of the dish.
A dish I was expecting more from was the grilled prawns ($25). Its simplistic preparation, presentation, lack of flavour and rubbery texture left me regretting my order. However, this was not the case with the grilled chicken ($22). When it comes to nailing the flavours, the grilled chicken was beautifully executed through and through. Juicy chicken thighs were cooked to perfection and the accompanying red pepper sauce woke up my taste buds. Thank goodness the server was attentive when it came to refilling my water. Paired with the tomato rice ($8), it was a lovely way to round out the meal.
For sweet endings, banana fritters ($14) and corn gelato ($12), a collaboration with Death in Venice, were the two offerings.
Overall, my experience at Selva was an enjoyable one—from the minute I entered to the minute I left. Although Chef Nuit has deep experience with Thai cooking, she has done a wonderful job curating a menu that is as unique as the space itself. While my visit to Selva reinvigorated my senses and offered some much-needed escapism, if only for a brief moment, my eyes needed a break from all of the neon!
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.