Exclusive interview Selva Restaurant

High above the vibrant city of Amsterdam, on the 24th floor of the nhow Amsterdam RAI hotel, you'll discover a hidden treasure that promises an exceptional dining experience.

In this exclusive interview with the creative minds behind Selva, we spoke about the inspiration, challenges, and the unique concept that has transformed this space from concrete walls to a lush, organic, and vibrant jungle-like environment.

Join us as we explore the vision, cuisine, and unique experiences that make Selva a must-visit destination for anyone seeking a memorable and immersive dining adventure in Amsterdam.

We would like to thank General Manager of nhow Amsterdam RAI, Renata Komarzinska and Head Chef Roberto Torres for their time and passionate answers to the questions.

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What inspired you to establish a restaurant and cocktail bar on the top floor of the hotel?
First of all, the view! We have three different floors where we serve food and drinks. On the first floor, we have Moana Bar, perfect for casual gatherings and on the 17th floor we serve our famous extended breakfast. However, since September, the cherry on the top is, of course, the top floor of the hotel with Selva Restaurant and Sonora Bar.

We had kept this floor empty for a while because the development was yet complete, even though the hotel was already in operation. This plan was slightly delayed due to Covid, but the idea to create a rooftop restaurant was there from the very beginning when this building was being developed.

Having a rooftop restaurant, it boasts a magnificent view, and we wanted to offer our guests this exclusive experience, allowing them to enjoy the panoramic cityscape.

What were the challenges in making this a reality?
Before we started to build , we faced challenges due to the difficult times caused by Covid. However, the most significant challenge was deciding on the right concept for this hotel. Each nhow hotel is themed according to its location, and our theme for this hotel is "cultures hub" because Amsterdam is an incredibly multicultural and cosmopolitan city with various nationalities living together. With this theme in mind, we aimed to create something that wasn't too obvious but would genuinely surprise people when they reach the 24th floor. 

Numerous ideas were considered, but our vision was to craft a warm and vibrant restaurant and bar that would contrast with the steel and glass structure on the exterior of the building. When guests step inside the hotel, they are greeted by a burst of colorful decor.

Can you tell us more about the interior and concept?
What was the inspiration behind it, and does it hold any significance?

We aim to create a warm and lively environment, fostering a shared dining concept where people feel at home. It's more than just casual dining; we want guests to feel comfortable without any stiffness., We've transformed the space from a glass and concrete setting into an incredibly lush and organic place. Incorporating the organic aspect into the restaurant was a top priority for us.

Currently, we offer 140 seats, and you can truly sense how the organic shapes beautifully divide the restaurant. "Selva" refers to the Amazon (jungle), so you'll notice many wooden structures and lush greenery, which bring the ambiance of the Amazon rainforest to the Netherlands, filling a void we sometimes miss here.

Our goal is to provide guests with a complete experience. From the moment they step onto the 24th floor, we invite them to begin their experience at our cocktail bar, Sonora. After that, we encourage them to dine at Selva. As the evening progresses, the music picks up, and we even have a live DJ positioned in the middle of the kitchen, creating a unique atmosphere. So, our guests don't just come to eat; they are immersed in the view, the ambiance, the food, and the drinks, resulting in a complete dining experience.
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What was the process behind creating the menu for Selva? Are there specific culinary influences or themes you wanted to emphasize?
For the questions related to food, Panamanian Head Chef Roberto Torres joins in.

Reading this question brings back all the memories of when we were creating the menu. It was a lovely process, especially considering we didn't have a kitchen of our own at the time. We collaborated with a partner hotel that generously allowed us to use their kitchen for test cooking. With a team of native chefs hailing from Venezuela to Brazil and from Guatemala to Peru, we brought a wealth of local knowledge to the dishes.

My primary goal for the menu was to offer a true Latin American food experience. It's not just about individual items on the menu; it's about the entire experience, from the music when you walk in, the ambiance, the restaurant layout, and beginning with a cocktail. We incorporate a wide range of flavors from Latin America that might not be commonly found in Europe but are second nature to us as chefs at Selva. We want our guests to ‘travel’ to Latin America with each meal.

Every time we create a dish, it's a reminder of home and how our grandmothers used to cook. This deep connection to our roots fuels our passion for the food, as these flavors transport us back to the regions we come from. This is something we really want to emphasize and share with our guests.


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Is there a unique dish that guests absolutely must try? 
This is a challenging question for a Head Chef. Among our most addictive and highly praised dishes, the Juka bread stands out. It's a unique creation, a bread infused with cheese and fruit, and generously topped with chipotle sauce.

Another must-try is our grilled avocado. We place it on the grill, letting it roast to perfection. Then, we bring it to the table to mix it with a medley of spices, transforming it into a guacamole. This presentation reflects our commitment to delivering a unique and interactive experience for our guests, rather than just serving guacamole with chips.

We make extensive use of our Josper grill, a fully charcoal grill, to bring that smoky flavor into a wide range of dishes, from avocados to the main courses and even desserts. With a diverse kitchen team representing various cultures, we blend their expertise to offer our guests a Latin American adventure with every bite they take. It's all about creating a memorable culinary journey.

What do you hope guests will experience and take away after a visit to Selva?
Our hope is that our guests leave with a feeling of satisfaction, having had an experience like no other. From the incredible cocktails to the authentic Latin American cuisine, the delightful music, and, of course, the breathtaking view, we aim to provide a pure Latin American experience.

We strive to bring all the best aspects of Latin America together so that our guests can carry these memories back home and share them with their friends and family. For those who have visited Latin America, we want our food to serve as a nostalgic reminder of those moments, allowing them to relive the tastes and memories of their time there.

The restaurant and cocktail bar opened in early September.
What are you proud of when you look at the outcome?

The first thing that comes to our mind is the feedback we received so far. A lot of people left Selva with an extremely good feeling. Next to that, when we started building this place, we had an idea in mind like it is going to be this or that and then it starts to grow from concrete walls to a ‘Jungle’ environment. Off course we had expectations and hopes but to make them true is very fulfilling and gives us a boost to continue like this. 

Also very important, we are super proud of our team who is making it happen. To build a fantastic restaurant is the beginning but what makes it more fantastic is the service we provide and how much love is put in every dish. Starts can be difficult because the place was completely new and we had to try out everything. For example, when we first tried the Josper Grill, the whole place turned blue because of some malfunction of the extraction but those kind of things happen and after all we can laugh about it. 

Furthermore, I'm delighted to share that one of our mixologists won the 'Flor de Cana' competition for creating spectacular cocktails using sustainable ingredients and techniques. Now, he's set to represent
The Netherlands in the World Championship in Nicaragua. It's an example of the incredible talents we have on our team and the exciting achievements that continue to happen at Selva.
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Is there more to experience on the 24th floor of nhow Amsterdam RAI?
In total, we have 700 square meters of space on the 24th floor, offering a spectacular 360-degree view of Amsterdam. Apart from the restaurant and cocktail bar, we also have space available for rent, which is ideal for hosting events and business meetings. For instance, if you're looking to arrange a keynote speaker event for up to 200 people, this space can be connected to the cocktail bar. This setup allows guests to enjoy a drink before diving into the session, enhancing the overall experience.
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