I was recently thinking about what cuisine I could have everyday, and I think Japanese food alone takes that prize. I'm not sure I could even have Chinese food everyday, although I suppose there is enough variety for me to get by! As most people know, Vancouver is my haven for glorious Japanese food, particularly tapas at Hapa Izakaya, Kingyo, Guu and the like. In a city as big as Toronto, we just assumed there would be something similar.....but we were wrong. Not to be disappointed for long, Tony came upon Ematei in his unrelenting research online; and lucky for us, it happens to be conveniently located just off Queen on the surprisingly quiet St. Patrick street.
Ematei offers traditional Japanese fare and is deliciously satisfying - ALWAYS my "go to" place when I've had a long/tiring/bad day at work. In fact, it is by far our most frequented restaurant in TO . We've noticed the patrons are largely Japanese, a good nod to authenticity. Our best discovery has been nabe - Japanese hot pot! I had not had it before Ematei and can say we have it 95% of the times we are there. Nabe is a unique experience allowing everyone at the table to socially cook and share food - nothing new for fans of Chinese hot pot! Our favourite at Ematei is the Chanko Nabe, a miso broth filled with tofu, chicken balls, beef, shrimp, scallops, assorted mushrooms, vegetables and noodles. Sound like a lot? It is! And somehow, Tony and I manage to survive eating it on our own. But I have to say, it is best enjoyed with 4+ people, because then you can taste the rest of Ematei's delicious menu - from staple sushi/sashimi, rice and noodles, to grilled tapas on the special menu. Our favourites include the grilled black cod, sashimi dinner, oden (assorted fishcakes & daikon in broth, only available in winter), butter eringi mushroom, and miso grilled eggplant. There are still many items we have not tried on the menu because I am always crave the hot pot! Not to say we dined our way through all of Tokyo, but our hot pot experience at Ematei is better than some places we tried in Japan....no small feat.
Please try Ematei if I have not yet taken you there personally! Be warned that it is often busy, so don't be surprised if you have to wait. Meanwhile, I wait with baited breath for Guu to open in Toronto....but it won't replace my nabe!