As we continue to daydream about travels to far away places comes a new restaurant and bar to remind us that exciting discoveries can also happen right here at home. Chef Nuit Regular (Pai, Sabai Sabai, Sukothai) introduces SELVA and it has already won over my wanderlust feels.
Located in the Entertainment District, Selva merges food, drinks and art, transporting visitors to a far, far away place. Vibrant colours excite the eye upon entry and continues to hold your gaze from floor to ceiling. It is the work by contemporary visual and mural artists by Clandestine Art (@BrunoSmoky and @ShalakAttack) that reminds us of that playful joy we’ve been missing. Splashes of flora draws attention in the dining space. On the night we were there, large screens at the bar projected black panthers on the prowl (not cougars) that stared right into our souls.
Chef Nuit was inspired to do something different with this new adventure. While she’s already the city’s sweetheart chef and known for her northern Thai restaurants, Selva was to bring a whole new experience to a night on the town.
It was during her Pai pop-up time at RendezviewsTO this past summer where she dreamed of creating a new experience that was filled with optimism and happiness. The same feeling she and her husband Jeff had seen repeated on faces as people began to emerge from lockdown and visiting this downtown patio. That feeling of making memories and reconnections stayed with her and as the universe aligned once again, they found equally excited visionaries at The Fifth Social Club and RendezVousTO to make the dream a reality.
The dishes here are equally as vibrant and joyful as the space. While the ingredients may be familiar to her loyal clientele, she’s brought a twist to awaken all our senses. Chef Nuit shares her stories of misty mornings back home in Thailand where she grew up surrounded by jungles and nature. While the world may seem big there are many connections that bring us closer together. The rainforests of South America and the cuisine brought her this idea of exploring the two cultures together through dishes and cooking techniques.
Chef Nuit has always sourced the most authentic ingredients for her dishes. Many of which were first imported here to Canada at her request. But it’s not just about the magrud limes, holy basil and specialty Thai rice, she also shares her true awe and wonder in local ingredients she’s fallen in love with like the cutest and most naturally colourful baby carrots and cauliflower. At our recent tasting event she laughed as she shared about when she first learned about Canada’s sweet and tender Bay scallops “they aren’t baby scallops?”. Her enthusiasm, she tells us, for these treasures are stories she loves to tell her friends and family when she’s back in Thailand.
When we explored the menu recently, it was filled with playful notes and leaned towards a healthier choices. Exciting and tasty veggie dishes, gluten-free, and Keto friendly dishes can be found here. I remembered that she was first a nurse back in her homeland before coming to Canada and became a chef. Creating dishes that can cater to more dietary needs is welcomed!
So, how would you describe the menu? First, it’s unlike any others in this city. One could see a blending of Thai cuisine with South American influences. Two ceviche dishes worth trying are the Young Coconut Ceviche and the Scallop Ceviche. Both gently kissed with Thai chili peppers and hints of flavours in the best of both worlds. Her grilled eggplant dip is something I am still craving and could eat all day…everyday.
Shishito peppers have been popular appetizer dishes in many restaurants for several years but here at Selva, Chef Nuit stuffs them with a mélange of pork and spices before grilling them to perfection. Corn fritters here are pop-in-your mouth bites of joy that can easily replace my popcorn chicken addiction.
Chef Nuit’s vegetable stew is hearty bowl of comfort food (squash, parsnip, careen, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, green chili and miso) ideal for our upcoming winter nights. Her grilled chicken is tender moist served with a side of light tomato rice and undeniably delicious. Both dishes are hits right from the start.
There’s so much more to return to here and I’ll be escaping often with friends to this hotspot to help us forget all about the upcoming cold and snowy months.
Selva is located at 211 Richmond Street West. Reservations encouraged.