Weekly Lunch Pick: Ematei’s unique take on the bento box
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
6 thoughts on “Weekly Lunch Pick: Ematei’s unique take on the bento box”
It looks good, but $15.50 + Tax for this?
I don’t know if my appetite will be pleased with this amount.
looks like an appetizer to me..
So I am paying $6.50 for that one piece of shrimp? I can get a cocktail ring of shrimp for less than $6.50!
I have no interest in promoting this unassuming little place because it’s one of my favourites and already very crowded at lunch. It would be better to keep a secret. However, I feel it necessary to point out that the picture of the “deluxe box” above is deceiving – you can’t actually see half of the food. If you prefer quality over quantity it is, without doubt, one of the best deals around. Each item is exceptional alone, and more than enough food for me (and for the people I have let in on the secret). But if you prefer cheap, plentiful Japanese, there are dozens of places nearby.
Ematei is my favorite go-to place for eating out, both at lunch and dinner. I used to work in the area and would get their lunch special at least 3 times out of any given week. Their daily lunch special is 8.50$ which is a steal because normally, the dish would have been at least 13-15$+ without the special price at lunch. Although I never had this featured bento box before, I’ve ordered these dishes a la carte before. Believe me, contrary to previous commentators, it is a great deal for the variety & quality of dishes you get PLUS the amount of food you actually get.
I think in general, the North American portions are out of whack. With soup and salad, there is a LOT of food here and upon closer inspection, there is a LOT of protein that will fill you up.
PLUS, if you take a closer look, and actually do the caloric count, there is more than enough calories than you to subsist you for the rest of the afternoon. (Think of the calories for the asparagus bacon, fried gyoza dumpling, fried almond encrusted chicken thigh and the fried shrimp.)
The gindara kama daikon (black cod collar and daikon radish featured on the bottom right of the above bento box) is my absolute favorite a la carte dish. It’s savory and the cod is so soft, it gently falls apart in your mouth. Generally the collar (neck) and the cheeks are the best part of a fish due to its subtle sweetness.
All in all, this is a great deal and a sampling of what to expect when dining at Ematei.
If you want cheap, go eat at the countless sushi places down the street. Mind you, you’re not going to get an authentic experience. Most of the sushi places in Toronto are owned by Koreans and Chinese and the quality of the ingredients and the attention to details are clearly no where as close as Chef Yuji and Nao at Ematei. Consider the food you put in your mouth, in the end, the decision is yours.
Ematei is my favourite Japanese restaurant in Toronto. I think the menu is fairly priced. Don’t forget Japanese food is labour intensive and requires mostly fresh ingredients.
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