After hearing great things about Ursa since it opened a few weeks ago, Mike and I were eager to check it out. The restaurant is occupied in a space which previously belonged to Bar One on Queen Street, a couple of blocks east of Ossington.
The décor can be described as contemporary with hanging bulbs throughout the restaurant. There’s a large bar occupying the front of the restaurant and I imagine Ursa would be a great place to grab a few drinks. If you’re looking for a quiet and intimate meal, you won’t be getting that here though. It was pretty loud during our entire meal.
Matching the contemporary décor, the food served at Ursa is described as contemporary Canadian cuisine. Reading up about the restaurant prior to heading over, the food here is supposed to be nutritionally balanced, so you won’t feel quite as guilty after a meal here.
We started with the White-Tail Tartare – blueberry cured foie gras, Icelandic moss ($16). I wasn’t quite sure what white tail was so after some quick googling, we discovered it was a type of deer. This tartare was simply divine! The tartare itself had a great flavour and didn’t taste gamey at all. The addition of the creamy foie gras was perfection and the sweetness from the blueberries complimented it wonderfully. This was a great start to the meal and ended up being my favourite dish of the evening.
Next up was the Winter Roots – raw, dried, preserved, walnut vinaigrette, kefir ($13). Judging by the presentation of this dish, I could tell they really pride themselves in their attention to detail. There were so many components of this dish including radishes, beets, celery, pickled walnuts, cucumber, parsnips. Each component brought something different to the dish – different textures and varied levels of sourness and sweetness. I particularly enjoyed the creamy kefir. While I appreciated the thoughtfulness of the dish, I can’t say I loved the dish. Just not my kind of dish.
The last appetizer we tried was the Mushroom Broth – wild mushrooms, chestnut agnolotti, kambucha ($13). We were first presented with a bowl of mushrooms and the server subsequently poured the broth out of a teapot. Incredibly aromatic!
Sure, it wasn’t a very large portion for $13 but being a mushroom-lover, I thought this was delicious. I loved the deep, earthy flavours of the broth and the great selection of wild mushrooms.
The menu only had three meat entrees and the only one that caught our eye was the Whey Brined Pork Loin & Apple Cider Glazed Belly – with lentils, kale sunchoke, bullberry mustard ($24). I don’t often order pork loin since I find this cut of meat to be a little on the dry side. The pork loin at Ursa was well cooked and a touch of grainy mustard gave each bite a nice little kick.
My favourite part of the dish was the cider-glazed pork belly. C’mon, who doesn’t love pork belly? I loved the sweetness of the pork and pairing it with the creamy sunchoke puree created a perfect little bite.
After our three appetizers and main, we decided to try one of Ursa’s desserts, the Milk & Honey – sweet ricotta, Rosewood honeycomb, Leatherwood, bee pollen, spelt rye ($16). The menu specifically mentions that the dessert is for two and the ricotta cheese is actually made to order. We watched one of the chefs making the cheese which was really neat. The cheese was served warm and was quite comforting.
The dessert also came with some honeycomb, pomegranate and some house-made raisins (my favourite component of the dish). It certainly wasn’t a traditional dessert and similar to the winter root salad, while I appreciated the dish and understood where they were going with it, it just wasn’t my kind of dessert. Mike, on the other hand, really enjoyed it. I guess it was his kind of dessert.
Although we had only ordered the one dessert, the server mistakenly ordered a second dessert for us, the Raw Dark Chocolate Mousse – with pumpkin and hibiscus ($12). Since it was already prepared, our server told us it was on the house. The dessert consisted of two small scoops of mousse, pumpkin, a pumpkin wafer and some brittle. Although the mousse wasn’t very creamy, I loved the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the addition of the light sprinkle of salt on top was nice. Between the two desserts, I preferred this one. It was more up my alley.
All the dishes were tried were creative and complex, comprising of many intricate components. There were some dishes which I enjoyed more than others but overall we had a very solid meal.
At a glance:
• Contemporary Canadian cuisine
• Creative and complex dishes
• Must order the White Tail tartare
• Located on Queen St, just east of Ossington
• Not for a quiet and intimate meal as it was quite loud inside
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 3.5 stars
• Service: 4 stars
• Atmosphere: 3.5 stars