66 E. Forest, Detroit MI 48201
QISA (4, 4, 3.5, 3.5), $9-14, Vegetarian
Seva Detroit is not so much trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. Rather it has already grown up and it is trying to figure out what it has become. The restaurant should not be called eclectic because eclectic is a style unto itself. Seva is a patchwork of eclectic, family style, elegance, and counterculture, all fighting for a seat at the table.
Seva Detroit is an elegant setting in a not so elegant neighborhood. The restaurant parking is down an alley in the back, and the parking lot is a morass of gravel, dirt, and potholes. But then you enter the restaurant sporting lovely wooden furniture in black and brown, candles on each table, modern art on the wall, a young wait staff in jeans, t-shirts, and knit caps, Motown music over the loudspeaker, and family after family of every ethnic group imaginable. Is the restaurant college-town counter culture? Inner city fine dining? Family-friendly comfort food? As I said, eclectic doesn’t begin to cover it.
The restaurant’s motto is, “fresh, imaginative vegetarian cuisine”, and they do their best to meet that expectation. The menu is a mix of comfort food (baked mac & cheese, omelets, burritos), pan-Asian (cilantro-peanut stir fry, General Tso’s cauliflower, tempeh banh mi), Mexican/South American (enchiladas calabaza, black bean & sweet potato quesadilla), and modern vegetarian (tofu California, graticola sandwich).
Whatever they are, I can’t argue with the results. The food is delicious. I ordered the black bean & sweet potato quesadilla which came with thick tortilla chips, a chunky guacamole, and a mild red salsa. The quesadilla was a good blend of flavor and texture, mixing sweet and savory, North and South American staples into a dish that left me asking myself, “Why haven’t I done this before at home?” The guacamole contained red onion and tomato to create a color mix that was as fun to look at as it was to eat.
To drink, I ordered the Eden’s Paradise Juice, a fresh mixture of orange, lime, ginger, and cranberry juices on ice, served with a wedge of lime. The juice had a powerful ginger bite, but the tang of the citrus juices balanced the piquancy with astringency.
I couldn’t pass up dessert. Mind you, I should have passed up dessert, but I didn’t. However, in order to maintain some semblance of sanity, I bypassed the more decadent tiramisu, black top pie, and chocolate hazelnut cake in favor of the pear almond torte. Of course, even the light-sounding torte was a warm, heavenly dish of cooked pear on thick torte cookie, topped with a dollop of cinnamon mascarpone cream. You know, diet food.
I have to give props to the waitress, who was very friendly and engaging, and, most importantly, very apologetic when they were out of my first and second choice on the menu. She helped me make a substitution decision without any snootiness or pretentiousness often endemic to trendy restaurants. I tipped her well.
Seva also has an Ann Arbor restaurant, and it is quite possible that Seva Ann Arbor is not nearly the anomaly of Seva Detroit. However, it is BECAUSE Seva Detroit stands out the way it does that I highly recommend you patronize them.
And while you are there, try the tiramisu. And let me know if it’s any good.