Oh URSA, I finally had a chance to try you.
Consistently found in the list of top Toronto restaurants in Toronto Life and NOW Magazine, URSA has been on my to-go list. I have not seen my boyfriend for at least two weeks because we both have been terribly busy. Even though March has been a pretty hellish month for the both of us. Me pulling a few overtimes in the office in conjunction to once a week class, and him with his current work project has him staying at the office at most till 4:00am multiple nights.
First, who does that?? And second, I missed him terribly. Nonetheless, I suggested we go somewhere nice (not a tie and suit kind of nice) and because we were in the area, it was that opportunity to dine at URSA.
When we came in on a Sunday night, it was relatively empty in a good way. Usually when restaurants are empty, it is a hint to avoid but not at URSA. It helped to allow us to have a quiet dinner and to enjoy the dining experience.
URSA is known for using seasonal local ingredients and putting dishes together in a deconstructed way; it is all about different textures at URSA. The menu changes seasonally, so if you’re expecting elk tartare, it may not be on this season’s menu (it was not on it at our visit).
They offer a 3-course (summary) for $55/person, which you order from the menu. They also offer a 5-course, 7-course and 9-couse which are more of a tasting menu. Some dishes could be from the menu in combination to what the chef feels like creating for you. Be advised that they are strict in that if one person in your group does the summary, everyone else in your party has to too. You do have the option of just ordering a main, but your entire party will not be able to do the set courses.
We both did the summary. For the appetizer, I had the yellow tail with blood orange, salsify, cured sea urchin and celery.
The boyfriend had the soft shell crab with brown butter, financier, yu choy, chili oil and tarragon. The soft shell crab was amazing, especially with their house-made chili oil. The yellow tail sashimi dish was pretty, but the pieces of yellow tail were miniscule.
For the main, I had the Ontario White Rock chicken with squash, wild rice, spring onions, black garlic and yolk. He had the Ontario Rainbow Trout with beets, celeriac, fava brioche, turnip greens and dill. Both were delicious, and I found the chicken to be tender.
For dessert, I had the purple yam frozen yoghurt with smoked apple, wild ginger, meringue and salted walnuts. He had the homemade probiotic feta with pickled raspberry sorbet, honey, basil and cashew raw bread. I wanted to like my dessert but the sweet and savoury did not bode well for me. Maybe if it was chocolate, I would have enjoyed it because salt and chocolate seem to go well together, though that is such a typical dessert and URSA does not seem the type of place to do typical things.
We enjoyed most of the dishes and found URSA to be a great dining experience. Portions are not huge, but each dish was like a piece of art, and you can tell that they were assembled with thought. Which is why if you decide to dine at URSA, do not come in with a hunger, but rather with an open mind. The way each dish is assembled is for one to explore and savour, and really, there is no right or wrong way to eat it.
If you’re the type of person who prefers simplicity, URSA is not for you. Also, URSA is not wallet-friendly, do expect to drop at least $100 for a meal here.
Service-wise, it was attentive and our waitress was amazing to give us an option to explore or tell us what’s on the plate. However it was slow in terms of the pace between courses. Our 3-course meal ended up being two hours long. So, if you decide to do more than the summary, take time into account.
924 Queen St. W