Sunday, November 29, 2009

Revisiting a Favourite: New Discoveries at Ematei

If you have been following, I have written about Ematei before - by far our favourite and most frequented restaurant in the city. Tonight, we had a different sort of experience that was so amazing I couldn't resist but share. Last I wrote about this restaurant, I shared my obsession with the hot pot, the ultimate Winter comfort food. We have other favourites as well, but we always have it with the hot pot (it definitely requires more people to share).

Without ordering hot pot, we had stomach room to try other things on the menu. We noticed a "special" sign on the wall tonight for a matsutake (mushroom) soup - we love mushrooms and we love soup, so how could we resist? In a restaurant full of delicious tapas under $10, I was expecting this $20 mushroom soup to be a big bowl; in reality, everything about this dish surprised us. The waitress told us that this was a unique soup made from rare pine mushrooms found only in Winter. The soup was a flavourful simmered broth of pine mushrooms, scallops and shrimp. It was served in a small teapot accompanied by little cups - the unique presentation allowed us to enjoy the soup throughout our meal in small portions, and each taste left us wanting more. A truly worthwhile and unique experience. Fresh pine mushroom are apparently very rare in North America, so we were doubly impressed that Ematei had the delicacy.

In addition to small portions of sushi and sashimi, we also had oden. I LOVE oden, and first experienced it at Ematei. This is also a Japanese Winter dish consisting of assorted fish cakes, daikon and boiled eggs served in a light broth. I think of it as a mini hot pot! We also had eringi butter (king mushroom), grilled black cod, and for the first time here, savoury egg custard. Tony and I had an unforgettable egg custard while in Japan last year at a restaurant that served food from the Hokkaido region, made with bits of roe and tako. It was just the right blend of flavours. Ematei's was made with traces of mushroom, shrimp, artificial crab meat and topped with orange zest. As always, we were happy to have a taste of something from Japan that we have not had at any other Japanese restaurant. And the night got better! For the first time, we actually had room for dessert, and I cannot believed we have missed out for TWO YEARS. We had anmitsu, a jelly and fruit mix served with red bean paste and (we were told) best with ice cream (black sesame was our flavour of choice). Although I recognized the name, I was not sure what this dessert was; in fact, we had it at a delicious izakaya restaurant in Shibuya on our last night in Japan....needless to say, I was elated to see this recognizable dish arrive! We also enjoyed a unique mochi, which we had not tasted before - it was freshly made sticky rice cake, rolled in what I think is ground soybean powder and served with a light syrup. Although we thought we were quite full already, we practically inhaled the entire plate. It was light and the perfect way to finish our meal. That is definitely going on the favourite list!

I regret that we didn't take any pictures tonight because our meal was so beautiful, from the mushroom soup teapot, the small oden ceramic hot pot to our cup of egg custard! Since I have shared my love of Ematei in the past, I was not planning to blog about our meal; but it was a different kind of experience for us that included pleasant reminders of Japan and also new tastes worth sharing. I think we will be back again shortly and perhaps then I can update with pics! We have a new completion goal to try everything on the menu, we don't want to miss out on anything. Think we can do it!?

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