Emblazoned on Chef Josh Cannon’s knuckles are the words “COOK THIS.” As the Executive Chef at the recently opened SEVA Kitchen in downtown Billings, he had obviously declared his passion for food. Together with Owners Harvey Singh and Schuyler Budde, he hoped to bring “globally inspired flavors” to his guests.
SEVA (pronounced “say-vah”) is Sanskrit for “selfless service.” Upon entering the restaurant’s foyer, a colorful painting of an elephant symbolizing wisdom and strength in the Eastern culture provided welcome. Budde, also the General Manager shared, “We wanted a modern contemporary industrial theme. There’s a guys’ guys feel.” But the manliness was moderated throughout. Buddha statues occupied coveted locations. The light fixtures mimicked the shape of hops, but took on a feminine rose tint.
Salvaged Oregon walnut slabs with butterfly joinery converted by Mark Sevier of Dovetail Designs into dining tables provided an organic naturalness. The Michael Weintrob’s “Instrumenthead” photographs, hanging on the walls offering a surreal representation of a musician’s face through the instrument they play continued the yin and the yang spirit of the restaurant.
Bright red metal chairs found on the outside patio beckoned customers in. The booth seating lined in tan leather on the side wall within encourage those who enter to stay awhile. Then behind the bar, the “guy’s feel” became evident with the 10-beer dispenser Budde named the “fire hydrant.”
Executive Chef Josh Cannon who grew up in Amman, Jordan and Damascus, Syria confessed, “I was a 9-year-old kid eating the weirdest things of my life. I mean anything from fish heads to camel hump.” He credited his parents for his adventurous palate. At SEVA Kitchen he left behind his meat and potatoes cooking when he worked at Lone Mountain Ranch and Jake’s West End. Here he pursued more international flavors ranging from French to Eastern Indian to Vietnamese to Mexican.
The menu was sorted into “SMALL, MEDIUM, and LARGE PLATES, GREENS” to “AND THEN” for sides. Choices included “EMPANADA,” “BAHN MI,” “GOJUCHANG FRIED CHICKEN,” and “DUCK CONFIT CROQUETTE.”
Cannon learned how to make the “SAMOSA” on the menu from Harvey Singh’s mother. She spent time teaching him how to make the potato, peas and carrot filled fried dumpling served with a tamarind chutney.
Budde created cocktails that are subtle in flavor to pair with the robustness of the food. He named his “MIMOSAS” after extinct animals to further the exoticness of the menu.
With the menu changing every few months, guests await how Chef Cannon will “COOK THIS” new dishes with new flavors.