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Ematei had been on my list for a while now after a few people had recommended it to me. The restaurant is tucked away on St. Patrick street, just off of Queen, near University Ave.

Beef Tataki

Ematei is Japanese-owned and operated and is an izakaya-style restaurant, serving up Japanese tapas similar to Guu. Just don’t expect the loud, lively atmosphere at Guu. Despite the restaurant being quite full, it was rather quiet.

When we first arrived, they immediately served us a complimentary appetizer, which Mike described as a “Japanese coleslaw.”

This cold dish consisted of cold pickled cabbage and carrots which was a refreshing way to start the meal.

The menu here is quite large including hot pot options such as sukiyaki ($60 for two servings) and a 7-course omakase for $48 (reservations recommended).


We started with the Beef Tataki – beef sashimi ($9.50). The beef was lightly seared on the outside and was raw in the middle. The beef was sliced thicker than I’d like and was a touch too chewy. I don’t think I’d order this dish again. I prefer the one at Guu, which comes with onions and garlic chips.

The next dish that arrived was the Nasudengaku – grilled eggplant with sweet miso paste ($7). This is one of our go-to dishes at Japanese restaurants since we love eggplant and this dish did not disappoint. The dish came with one large piece of eggplant which was topped with a generous portion of miso paste. The fact that it came with the skin already removed was also a nice touch. I’d recommend ordering this if you’re an eggplant fan.

Hiya Yakko

Since there were several tofu items on the menu, we decided to order one and settled on the Hiya Yakko – cold tofu with bonito flakes ($3.75). It came with one square piece of tofu, simply topped with bonito flakes and green onions. We poured some soy sauce over it and each took a bite. It was a tasty and simple dish but nothing mind-blowing.

Now, onto the sushi rolls! One roll that caught my eye was the Giant Roll melon skin, mushrooms, fish egg, salmon roe, salmon skin, cucumber, crab and mayo ($11.50). It came with five large pieces and as the name indicated, it was quite gigantic, which made it tough to eat in one bite. The boys managed to eat it all in one bite but I had difficulty eating this elegantly. But who was I trying to impress? Anyway, the combination of all the flavours worked perfectly resulting in a delicious roll.

Giant Roll

The second roll we ordered was the Age Hama Roll – deep-fried chopped yellowtail and green onion with Ematei bbq sauce ($8). It sounded promising but I found the deep-fried yellowtail to be a little on the dry side. Sure, the bbq sauce helped but we found the roll to be underwhelming. I wouldn’t order this again.

The third and final roll we ordered was the Spicy Shrimp Roll ($6.50). I was disappointed that they didn’t have spicy scallop as an option as that’s my usual go-to roll so I thought that shrimp would be a good alternative. I wished they had used shrimp sashimi instead of cooked shrimp and my thoughts about this roll were the same as the Hama roll – underwhelming. Maybe we should have just stuck to the hot food from the kitchen.

The menu featured a selection of grilled fish and when I saw the Grilled Black Cod ($13.50) as an option, we had to order it. This is a classic dish that’s hard to do poorly. Thankfully, Ematei was not an exception as this was a big hit at our table. It was perfectly cooked and had that smooth, buttery texture you’d expect from this type of fish. Highly recommended!

Grilled black cod

The other grilled item we ordered was the Grilled Salmon Neck ($5.50). My grandma always orders this at Japanese restaurants so when I saw this on the menu I decided to give it a try. No regrets at all…my grandma sure knows what she’s doing!

The meat had a nice smooth and juicy texture. Although it took quite a bit of work to get all the meat, it was worth it. On a side note, we were all wondering what the “neck” part of the fish meant so we flipped it over and realized it was actually the head of the fish. Interesting.

Ematei Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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  1. Cindy (Reply) on Saturday 14, 2012

    I love Ematei! Their black cod is my favourite item. They also have delicious bento boxes during lunch hours too.

    • Jess (Reply) on Saturday 14, 2012

      Yeah, I heard their bento boxes are really good. I’ve gotta drop by for lunch one day!