Weekly Lunch Pick: Ematei’s unique take on the bento box

Weekly Lunch Pick: Ematei’s unique take on the bento box

(Image: Renée Suen) 

This old school, expat-filled izakaya elevates the traditional bento box ($8.50-25). Instead of generic teriyaki and tempura, our hexagonal lunch box arrives full of unique, bite-sized treats. From the grill come bacon-wrapped baby asparagus spears, juicy savoury gyoza and buttery miso cod with a caramelized crust. A pair of shrimp—one whole, the other shelled and battered, and topped with a sliver of jalapeño—emerge greaseless from the fryer, along with a nugget of almond-encrusted chicken thigh. The remaining compartments are artfully packed with short-grain rice dusted with ume salt (from floral Asian plums), mild Japanese pickles, neatly trimmed snow peas, tender soy-braised cod cheek with broth-soaked daikon radish and slices of salmon and tuna sashimi. The compact feast also comes with miso soup, a simple soy-dressed salad and green tea. An elegant take on the North American Japanese restaurant cliché.

The cost: $21.50 for the medium-sized bento box, before tax and tip

The time: 33 minutes after being seated

Ematei, 30 St. Patrick St. (at Queen), 416-340-0472