My Tokyo and Kyoto trip...
Since I got many of my restaurant recs off this board, I thought I would share some of the prep I did for my trip.
Here is a link to my page about using a GPS to navigate Japan:
And here are the Googlemaps pages I created to keep track of restaurant (and other) options in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Thanks again for your contris!
Man, next time I am traveling with YOU. We just got back from another trip to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Osaka and among my frustrations with trying new places is simply finding them. We were 45 minutes late for dinner at one restaurant because we were hopelessly lost. Trust me, we paid for it!
Now, tell us about the food!
Oh yeah... the food! I'll keep it short and list my favorite places, also because we obviously didn't hit every joint on the googlemaps. BTW, I'm a New Yorker, so FWIW I'll compare to some of the places I've come to know in NY.
Waraji Tei - great neighborhood obanzai place with salarymen smoking and drinking and families having Kyoto-style homecooking. Super nice people, way off the beaten path, and easy to order for a gaijin since it's essentially buffet. Easily one of my favorite experiences on our trip.
Menbaka Ichidai - fun ramen place with the added gimmick that he sprinkles oil on top and then sets it on fire. But the ramen isn't bad either, and it's near Nijo Castle.
Ryoan-ji Yudofuya - touristy and not cheap but convenient and we certainly did not feel ripped off. The yudofu tasted delicious to me, though more discerning palates will probably have less well-traveled places in mind.
Tonkatsu Yamanaka - pretty good, though pales in comparison to Maisen in Tokyo.
Misoka-an soba - hallowed and revered soba joint. In my book it was ok but I would not go back - this is after years of going to Honmura An in NYC.
Kinmata ryokan - off-the-hook, no holds barred, amazing kaiseki meal. Better than Sugiyama or Kai. Since we were staying there for the night we also had breakfast the next day, and had what was without question the best piece of tamago I have ever had in my life. What felt like a hundred tiny layers of the most delicately cooked egg. I love when "simple" things knock your socks off.
On a side note, if you have time I highly recommend taking a half-day trip to Kurama for a soak at the onsen.
Benten Miyako zushi - best sushi I've ever had, with a very sweet and friendly itamae who had a good understanding of english and an awesome japanese illustrated fish dictionary. I considered buying one but I only read kana in my dreams. Now I'm sure Kyubei, or one of the myriad A-list places would have been even better, but for a very reasonable ¥10,000 each we ate dinner to our heart's content in a high level neighborhood place (Asakusa).
For reference's sake my favorite NY sushiya is Shimizu (the cheaper Yasuda), LA is Ike. So traditional is my game, and Miyako was just my speed.
Ippudo ramen - my favorite ramen on the trip - tonkotsu based - and now we have one in NY. Can't wait to try it, though I hear there's no garlic to press into your bowl on the tables like in Japan.
Maisen tonkatsu - phenomenal tonkatsu. Way better than Yamanaka.
Yakitori Toriyoshi - meh... pretty good and a fun scene, but I wouldn't go back.
Tsunahachi Rin - very good tempura, though not as good as I remember having on my only other trip to Tokyo... a fancier and more expensive counter only restaurant where they battered and fried the most amazing live unagi.
Jangara ramen (Harajuku location) - really good, but I liked Ippudo better.
Mori Art Museum restaurant/bar - cheesy, but it is pretty amazing to look at that view while sipping a martini. Wouldn't have thought so, but really glad we did it.
Well, that report is pretty sketchy, and it doesn't cover every place we went, but hopefully some will find it useful. And once again, I can't recommend having a GPS enough. If you're worried about not being spontaneous enough, don't worry, even with modern technology you will get lost, and will do wonderful, unplanned things. Happy CHing.