Though I don’t frequent Victoria’s Chinatown that often, recently I discovered an intriguing non-Asian restaurant there that caught my eye.
Not too long after I discovered Ulla Restaurant, I read that it had earned a coveted spot on Air Canada’s Enroute Magazine’s annual top 10 list (2011).
That’s when I knew that I couldn’t wait any longer to check out Ulla.
Headed up by Chef Brad Holmes who is said to use “ingredients in the prime of life”, Ulla restaurant has quickly become one of Victoria’s more popular places to dine out, and it didn’t take my dining partner Mark and I long to find out why.
At first when we entered Ulla, I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I was overly excited about the space.
Ulla is fairly open and had a simple decor, which I expect is what professional critics might describe as “modern”.
I tend to like more of an intimate feel, but having said that, I know that sometimes I need to give a restaurant a chance to impress before I judge it too quickly.
Once seated, we were promptly greeted by our server who gave us a small drink menu and one page food menu as well.
After asking for drink recommendations our server brought Mark a “Kakoli” ($9)and myself a “Bellini” ($8).
My Bellini was a traditional Bellini made simply with sparkling wine and peach puree, not the super sweet frozen girly drink that I am used to drinking at other restaurants around town.
That made sense as we were dining at a more “upper end” type restaurant after all.
Mark’s drink was also original in both its taste and its presentation.
In his gin and ume plum wine based drink (which incidentally we found out was award winning in France not that long ago), mixologist “Alex” put what would best be described as an ice globe with a lemon rhine imbedded in it.
Not only was this a very cool drink presentation, but Mark also really loved the taste too.
For appetizers we once again asked for recommendations and were totally WOWED by the “Crispy Semolina Polenta Cubes” ($8).
Now this appetizer was extra amazing for me in that normally I don’t like polenta but holy cow, this was one of the best tasting appetizers I have ever had!!
The polenta itself was velvety smooth and the truffle mayo that it was served with was oh so creamy and yummy as well.
We could have easily ordered another plate but we wanted enough room in our bellies to try other dishes… And that we did!
In fact, after such an amazing start to the evening we decided we would try ALL of the appetizers on the Ulla menu!
I can tell you that you won’t go wrong when ordering any of the appetizers off the menu, but another favourite of ours was the “63°C Egg” ($14).
This perfectly poached egg came with borlotti beans on top of brioche, with a bit of pork belly and bourbon maple syrop as well.
Since our last visit, the menu has changed and instead of borlotti beans the dish comes with honey-garlic sausage which I am sure balances out the dish just as well and is equally as tasty.
I love the fact that Ulla uses local, organic ingredients and that the cuisine here is cutting edge, with dishes I have never tasted anywhere else in Victoria.
I was very happy to find lamb on the menu as this is one of my favourite meats, especially when it is done right.
I ordered the “Lamb 3 Ways” ($33) and once again, I was not only not disappointed, but WOWED.
Be aware that the menu changes frequently at Ulla, so you may or may not be able to sample the great dishes we did on our visit.
Don’t worry though, I can confidently say that the menu here is superb and assuming you have a palate for great tasting food, you won’t go wrong with anything you order.
Mark’s “Still Meadow Farm Pork Loin” ($26) was yet another example of a delightfully tasting dish with bright clean flavours.
It came with Roesti (Swiss potatoes) and another side that neither of us had tried before that consisted of a mix of celery root, bacon, cheddar, apple and gastrique (fancy name for caramelized sugar, deglazed with vinegar, used as a flavoring for sauces).
All in all I have to say that Chef Brad does an excellent job of putting together flavours that work extraordinarily well together. He literally provides a party for your mouth!
Ulla is one Victoria restaurant that will remain on our top 10 list for a long, long time.