This is Victoria for Victorians. Sure, the folks next to us are pushing back from their table at 7 p.m. (“Heading home to watch The National,” my friend says, winking.) But the buzz at Ulla is distinctly modern, urban and, frankly, young. Chef Brad Holmes and front-of-house partner Sahara Tamarin, both just past 30, have between them accrued an impressive resumé of Vancouver’s top addresses, including Feenie’s, West, Lumière and, most recently, Cibo. With Ulla, inspired by the nickname of Holmes’ mother, they’ve opened a keeper of a neighbourhood restaurant (in Chinatown, no less).
You might not have thought there were enough twentysomethings in town to populate a room like this, but the bright quarters – white chandeliers that look like sea-anemones, hand-hewn fir tables, shelves of cookbooks, surfy street art – host bare-shouldered bright young things supping from a hyper-local and largely organic menu. Holmes snaps up his ingredients in the prime of life, too. Fresh chickpeas – picked green, deep-fried in their skins and gently salted – are B.C.’s own edamame. English pea soup is stunningly vital, enriched with smoked crème fraîche in lieu of bacon. The Andean grain kañiwa is introduced as the new quinoa.
On the Island, where healthy eating doesn’t always come with a catch and talking about “ethically raised proteins” (also a mandate of Ulla’s menu) can be pleasurable as well as political, Left Coast cuisine has a new home.509 Fisgard St., 250-590-8795, ulla.ca