Selva is a restaurant in Paris’s fifth arrondissement offering South American-inspired cuisine “enhanced by French technique.” The decor attempts to immerse you somewhere in the Amazon jungle with green plants and South American fabric designs.
We ate in the rather noisy side room on the ground floor (thankfully, not at the high tables in the first room), but a friend later told me that the upstairs dining rooms are more agreeable. Sounds like good advice since the noise level was our only (mild) complaint about the restaurant, where the service was delightful and the food excellent and more than generous.
You might even say the food had lots of heart, especially my friend’s first course: grilled beef hearts with the restaurant’s special fried potatoes – so crispy/tender and tasty that it’s hard to stop eating them, even if you have sworn off carbs or are already full. This dish, accompanied by rocoto-chili-pepper mayonnaise, could easily have served as a main course.
My starter was on the lighter side: a classic ceviche with whitefish, sweet potato, choclo (a type of South American corn with large kernels), cancha chulipi (corn nuts), leche de tigre (tiger’s milk, the citrusy marinade that “cooks” the fish), coriander and red onions. Exactly the right combination of sweet and sour, crunchy and tender, with a slight bite from the onions. It was a stellar version of the dish.
I followed that with churrasco Nikkei, a char-grilled steak (faux-filet, or sirloin) with chimichurri salsa. It was just right, tender and beautifully flavored but such a large serving that I could only finish half of it and asked for a doggie bag for the rest. (Are servings getting bigger everywhere in Paris? I had to take home half my food last week, too, something that has rarely happened before.)
After that huge dish of beef hearts, my friend also had trouble finishing his poulpe (octopus), perfectly char-grilled and tender and served with manioc purée, Peruvian anticuchera sauce (a hot, spicy, garlicky sauce), mojo verde (a green sauce) and some delicious greens that looked like spinach but weren’t. I kindly took the rest of that dish home with me as well. It would be criminal to let such good food go to waste.
In spite of our well-filled stomachs, we bravely ordered a dessert to share. No hardship there: called chocolate y lucuma, it was a soft-centered cake with lucuma (a fruit that looks like an avocado) cream, topped with a tuile (a wafer-like cookie) with more of those addictive toasted corn nuts.
Kudos to Colombian chef Felipe Camargo for his savvy fusion of different South American (mostly Peruvian) dishes with French traditions (the manioc purée is a good example). It works wonderfully when done this well.Favorite