September 2, 2014
Feb 22, 2013
02:12 PM

First Look: Nejibee, Toronto’s newest izakaya and teppanyaki bar

Keichan-yaki: sautéed chicken and vegetables served on a sizzling-hot plate (Image: Gizelle Lau)

It seems that Toronto’s izakaya fever is as sizzling as ever. The latest entrant, Nejibee Izakaya, hails from Tokyo, where it has more than 30 locations. This is its first foray into North America.

Tucked at the back of the condo at 24 Wellesley Street, Nejibee offers two concepts. The first, now its soft-opening phase, is an izakaya and teppanyaki with two long communal tables and a long bar with an open kitchen. Next door, the second Nejibee space will offer a 1,600-square-foot sake bar and izakaya — with a patio — which will be open by summer (fingers crossed).

In the kitchen is chef and General Manager Atsushi Iwabuchi, who hails from Japan. He has five years of izakaya and ramen experience; plus, he was once a semi-professional hockey player in Japan, which brought him to Canada in his early 20s for training.

With a grand opening expected in early March, the menu will eventually offer 40-50 items, but it currently offers around a third of that. The cuisine — like the restaurant’s entrance mural — is mostly inspired by the traditional Hida-Takayama village in Japan.

Nejibee’s signature dish is keichan-yaki ($12.50): chicken and vegetables sautéed in a homemade sauce, served on a sizzling-hot teppanyaki plate. There’s also the okonomiyaki ($10), a Japanese-style pancake, along with other snacks like deep-fried chicken karaage ($7.50), pork belly skewers ($2.50) or garlic edamame ($6).

The liquor license is pending (it’s expected by next weekend), but Nejibee will serve sake (including a house sake from the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company) and other beverages such as Sapporo and Asahi.

The grand opening will take place in early March, but from Feb. 24-25, enjoy 50 per cent off the menu.

Nejibee Izakaya, 24 Wellesley St. (at the back of the building, facing Phipps St.), 647-748-2882

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