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Restaurants

Ursa Restaurant

Posted by Anna Rose Kowalski / Reviewed on March 16, 2012 / review policy

Ursa Restaurant TorontoUrsa lives up to the hype — and there's been a lot of it. Brothers Lucas and Jacob Sharkey Pearce opened up shop at the end of January in the former Bar One space and haven't had a quiet night since.

The story behind the restaurant's name can be traced back to the owners' formative years when Jacob's sister would call him "bear cub," a nickname now gestured to with the Latin-based name. Needless to say, the chef has come a long way since his cub days, now running a kitchen with the help of fellow chefs Jay Moore, Rob Hojilla, and Jonathan Lucas. The menu reflects a holistic and nourishing outlook on life, with much emphasis put on the nutritional quality of the ingredients on offer.

Appetizers: Winter Roots ($13) and House made Tofu ($12)
Ursa RestaurantThe display of winter roots is breathtaking. It's vegetable porn, if such a thing is possible. Taking my first bite, the pleasure slips from sight to taste. After each mouthful I experience a new flavour and texture — the brisk bite of pickled radish, the crunch of carrot, the watery relief of celery. Sprinkled lightly with walnut vinaigrette and accompanied by kefir (yogurt), this ain't your average salad.

Ursa RestaurantThe kefir, produced in-house, is excellent. I'm also pumped to give the tofu a try. My dining companion use to live in South Korea and has traveled throughout Asia, so he's a bit of a tofu junky. He's impressed with the authenticity of the silken and regular tofu; both versions pay homage to Japanese and Chinese cuisine respectfully. The owners and chefs all have a strong background in Asian culture and cuisine that runs from cooking to botany to the martial arts. The dish shows great attention to detail — and is once again immaculately plated — but I suspect that it'd work a bit better if the ginger was toned down a bit.

Mains: Whey brined Niagara pork loin and apple cider glazed belly ($24) and Georgian Bay Whitefish ($21)
Ursa RestaurantHello, lover! The pork loin comes cut into puck-sized portions, and the middle is a blushing brownish-pink colour while the outside is charred beautifully. The meat is supple. Served on a bed of lentils and paired with homemade bullberry mustard, the dish feels like the natural evolution of your grandmother's cooking when handled by a talented chef. The star of the plate is the glazed belly — no knife required. The meat falls apart with a slight touch of my fork and dissolves quickly in my mouth like a naughty treat. Pork and apple is a classic combination, but it reaches new heights here.

There's some delicious catch just north of Toronto. Case in point: this Georgian Bay whitefish is both meaty and flaky, and the fish taste is subtle. Matched with a white bean puree, cauliflower and green grapes, each ingredient is placed perfectly to draw out the complementary relationship between the savoury and sweet.

Dessert: Yuzu lemon curd, blueberry preserve, meringue, spruce caramel, duck fat sable ($13)
Ursa RestaurantIf duck fat is wrong, I never want to be right. The blueberry preserve balances the tartness of both the lemon and yuzu. Simple and sweet, this is a dessert you would introduce to your mother!

If you are one of the many Torontonians counting down the days until patio season you'll be excited to hear that Ursa plans to open both front and backyard seating that will house up to forty patrons. With a trustworthy team at the helm, the restaurant promises to become a go-to spot in the neighborhood for locals looking to fill their bellies and for out of town folks looking for the Toronto dining experience.

Ursa RestaurantUrsaRestaurant

Discussion

24 Comments

jim / March 13, 2012 at 04:11 pm
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one of the best meals i've had in a while. beautiful food, interesting flavors. keep up the good work.
C. / March 16, 2012 at 01:14 pm
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The photos alone make me want to dine here. Such beautiful presentation, especially the winter roots appetizer!
Adam K / March 16, 2012 at 01:21 pm
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Went for dinner last week and was in awe of the food here! Easily the best new restaurant in Toronto and the owners are so nice and passionate about what they are doing. Lucas joined our table just to chat for 15 minutes while running the front of house. I can't wait until they start producing their own vegetables
HH / March 16, 2012 at 02:44 pm
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Ursa Minor.
andrew / March 17, 2012 at 12:34 pm
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The place looks great. The plates are stunning in presentation. Can't wait to try it out. Now lets watch and see which jaded prick is gonna try and find something negative to say about it all.
MommaKenzie / March 18, 2012 at 01:58 pm
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Love the tidbit on the origin of the restaraunt's name ... nice to know a little bit about the people behind the plate
d / March 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm
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Went to Ursa over the weekend. The food was just as beautiful as the pictures in this post and so so so delish. Try their chocolate mousse, which they tell me is made of only cocoa, sugar, water...and a very talented chef. Yum!!
lsm / March 22, 2012 at 03:58 pm
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make sure you CALL this place to ensure they actually TAKE your reservation. i'd also recommend following up by email or perhaps even by pigeon mail.

i was told over the phone when initially booking this that yes, my reservation was made. they were also so kind to leave me a voicemail to CONFIRM the reservation. upon me calling back to see if another person could be added to our table i was told i wasn't even in the book? when i was then asked, would 10pm be okay instead? no thank you - i'd prefer to eat during dinner hours and should be treated as a customer. especially considering this is a new opening. i'll make my reservation elsewhere.



John / March 22, 2012 at 04:27 pm
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I had dinner here the other week and it was fantastic. The pickled Georgian Bay white fish with dark rye bread was amazing! Can't wait to go back.
blurr_grrl / March 23, 2012 at 11:16 am
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Perhaps they could do something with the 'beaver tail'.
RCGUY / March 30, 2012 at 12:27 pm
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Is it just me, or are there fewer comments here than there were a week ago? I read this review before, and came back just now to get some info on address - seems that there were other comments here before that are no longer.
flavor replying to a comment from HH / April 10, 2012 at 03:33 am
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major
sowhen / May 12, 2012 at 08:01 am
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I live in Ursa's hood. And stumbled upon them in their first week. I have been back 3 times and have never been disappointed.

The best part is that they are actually changing the menu so that it reflects the food available in the season. And as a result - - the menu doesn't get tired.

Here's to their future success!!


Vince / May 23, 2012 at 09:37 pm
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Does one have to be rich to dine there? The food should change with the season, makes sense and is a no-brainer.
Armita / July 5, 2012 at 09:58 am
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One of the best restaurants in Toronto
Fantastic service, unreal food!

you should go!
Not Satiated / February 9, 2013 at 01:49 pm
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Ursa Restaurant = Still Hungry and kinda broke!
mikey replying to a comment from andrew / March 27, 2013 at 04:19 pm
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haha love it. i was thinking the same thing
Eliza / May 8, 2013 at 03:00 pm
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The food was pretty good though not as good as I was anticipating. The trout was amazing,the duck was mediocre and the lamb was over cooked. The tofu appetizer was really bland.
Joey King replying to a comment from lsm / August 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm
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Hey, take it easy. Mistakes happen, have you ever made one?
SBW / September 11, 2013 at 01:45 pm
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had a rather unfortunate experience --- the food was pricy and sub-par and the wait staff were not much better.
SBW / September 11, 2013 at 02:03 pm
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I was not impressed by the service nor the food. Highly over-rated in my book.
Roseanna Buffo / October 31, 2013 at 11:31 am
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