Ulla Restaurant Review
Ulla is a popular restaurant in Victoria and it was packed on the Saturday night Mr. H and I visited. Fitting into the Victoria food scene, their menu is short and focused and they try to use local organic ingredients as much as possible.
The restaurant is not big but it’s a nice space with a bar, some tables for smaller parties and a communal table in the centre.
Although our table was not ready right away at our reserved time, we were given the option to wait at the bar. Our table was ready after about 15 minutes at the bar with the friendly bartender. Thereafter, service was prompt and attentive.
I was really impressed with their service. Not only were the servers really knowledgeable about their food and ready to answer any questions, they came and folded Mr. H’s napkin when he went to the bathroom. It’s certainly much more than I expected from a restaurant at this price range.
Kombucha Sencha Tea & Mint & Cucumber Juice ($5) – 4/5
They actually were running out of this but the bartender gave me a little of what’s left to try and a glass of the Jewel of India & Winter Spice instead. The Sencha was slightly sweet and very refreshing. I can see why they ran out!
Jewel of India & Winter Spice ($5) – 3/4
The “Jewel of India” refers to Assam, a kind of black tea from India. This was sweeter than the Kombucha Sencha and had flavors of Ume (aka: Japanese Apricot or Chinese Plum).
Complimentary Bread and Olive Oil – 3.5/5
The bread is ciabatta from Fol Epi, a well-known and well-loved bakery in town. (See my review of them here.) It was appropriately chewy. I would’ve much preferred it warmed up to release more of the flavors though. On its own, I would have rated it 1.5/5.
The olive oil is a Spanish Arbequina Olive Oil. I loved it and would rate it a 5/5 on its own. It tasted so green and fresh, the poliphenals left a tingling sensation at the back of my throat (sign of a high-quality olive oil full of anti-oxidants). It was also used perfectly here, without being paired with balsamic vinegar to distract the palate from its greatness.
Quail ($14) – 2/5
Blood Orange, Belgian Endive, Pickled Onion, Spiced Medjool Date, Watercress
This dish didn’t work for me. While it was beautifully plated, the individual components were all so strong in flavours (the quail a strong saltiness, the pickled onions a strong sourness and the date a strong sweetness) that they competed with rather than complimented each other. I’m not sure that such strong flavours are a good way to prepare our taste buds for the main courses.
I felt the dish sent a mixed message with Ulla’s rather romantic environment and their fine-dining plating style. The quail is bone-in, which is usually great for flavours but it was awkward to eat. I really struggled with getting the meat off the bone and confess I resorted to my hands. But even then, it was a struggle (I hope Mr. H was looking away). I noticed the couple sitting next to me sharing this same appetizer, the girl ate half of the meat and left the rest.
Lamb ($29) – 4/5
Herb Crusted Loin & Braised Belly, Turnips, Onion Jam, Potato Gratin, Black Garlic Savory Jus
See the roll? That’s the braised lamb belly topped with onion jam. It was deeeelicious! The onion jam’s sweetness really cut down the fattiness of the belly and the size of it was perfect. On the other end is a sous-vide lamb loin crusted with mint and parsley. For a sous-vide preparation, I think it could be a little more tender but it gives a great contrast to the softness of the belly. Underneath both meats are a cauliflower cream and it was fantastic, perfectly smooth and creamy with the right amount of cauliflower flavour. The rutabaga and parsnip were tender and cooked perfectly, adding a mild sweetness to the whole plate. I wasn’t a huge fan of the potato gratin and would’ve liked it creamier and the potatoes more cooked.
Beef ($27) – 4/5
Shortrib Braise & Steak, Cauliflower, Potato Gnocchi, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Garlic Sherry Jus
The short rib on the left is braised and the steak is cooked sous-vide. There is that same cauliflower cream surrounding the meats and I absolutely love it. The short rib fell apart at the fork and was very flavourful. The steak was cooked perfectly throughout but I enjoyed the short rib more. The potato gnocchi with black trumpet mushrooms were also very good; moist, tender and flavourful!
All in all, beautifully presented and tasty food in a lovely place with exceptional service. You could tell the place is run with a lot of care. I would not hesitate going back again.