Ursa - Toronto

The story begins, as so many meals do, with salad: a dish that’s hard to do really well and rarely this well. Ursa’s is a jungle of wild greens, with its own ecosystem of campfire-smoky radicchio, rose petals, coltsfoot flowers, cinnamon cap and honey mushrooms and other cute things that elves eat – even ground pecan and barley malt “soil” that’s so delicious, we barely roll our eyes. Uncovering the layers of crunch, moisture and zing in a Banyuls vinaigrette becomes a joint project. When did we last spend 15 minutes talking about salad? When did we want to?

In this grey cinder-block room, beneath a constellation of bare LED bulbs, the modern food psyche is playing out: political concerns about local, sustainable ingredients; personal concerns about health and lifestyle; and primordial concerns about the pursuit of pleasure – namely, the fear of not getting enough of it. Ursa is rootsy and possibly radical, but with more than a touch of glam. Sip the Vouvray. Feel the linen napkins. Eye the plates as complex as a Hundertwasser. 

Left: Roulade and confit leg of rabbit, veal sweetbread, carrot, burnt alfalfa, hay emulsion and clover flower