30 St Patrick Street
Toronto, ON M5T 3A3
Ematei is a Japanese restaurant on St Patrick right off Queen (close to Osgoode Station). This restaurant is an actual Japanese restaurant that offers a wide range of items that include a sushi bar, izakaya items, and their Japanese hot pot. They really like to key in on the authenticity of it all.
It was Anna's Birthday this day, so she really wanted to come here (despite here having been here several times prior). The place itself is tucked away nicely and you might have to do a double take to find it. The restaurant is very nice inside and seems to be tucked away into 3 different areas. The initial area is a sushi bar, then a main dining area, and then some rooms in the back for private groups.
Anna was keen on ordering their special Japanese hot pot (Sukiyaki). The waitress told us it is sometimes enough for 4 people, so we decided to share it and order some apps too. The waitress asked us if we were sure. Do I look like I'm on a diet here?
So I thought the hot pot wouldn't be enough despite the server's warning, so I took it upon myself to order a Chicken Kaarage ($7.50) and sushi appetizer as well. The chicken kaarage order was 6 pieces of fried chicken that were cooked perfectly without any grease. I did find it a bit dry without some sort of dipping sauce though. I asked if it came with a mayo dip or anything (like other izakaya places have), and she firmly said no and pointed to the slice of lemon. That'll have to do I guess.
The Sushi Appetizer ($10) is a fantastic deal considering how good the sushi is. It comes with 2 pieces of salmon sushi, red tuna nigiri, butterfish, shrimp, and 3 pieces of tuna maki. The sushi is so damn good. The fish tasted so fresh. No smell. Good strong flavor from the light brushing of soy sauce and the (sometimes very) generous spread of wasabi underneath each nigiri piece. Even the tuna maki pieces had some wasabi on them. I could eat 4 of those sushi appetizers and call it a day, but unfortunately, we had to deal with something we weren't ready for...
The sukiyaki hot pot ($66) carried a steep price. Seemed like a good meal and Anna said she had always wanted to try it, so ordered it we did. At first, they bring a pot of boiling broth with some mushrooms, pork, chicken, tofu, and veggies simmering within. My initial thought was..OK, sure, pretty pricey for this big pot of stuff, but quality must be good.
And as we're eating this pot, she brings out a massive plate of more meats and veggies. Completely caught us off guard. There was a giant platter of shrimp, scallops, veggies, mushrooms, tofu, chicken, and pork. Everything tasted great and the broth really was delicious. There was so much food and you could see how this could fill a group of 4 (as long as there are apps to help as well) I did wish they had a dipping sauce like Chinese hot pot places. Still pretty damn good though.
The dining experience was great and they do have little rooms (you are also required to take off your shoes) where you can dine Japanese style (Washitsu). The service was excellent. Service was quick and their recommendations were on point. Definitely worth visiting considering that this little gem is off the beaten path. Parking is found along the street up front or a nearby parking garage.
Ambience: B+ | Service: B+ | Price: B | Food: A-