Dining on a budget in Tokyo and Kyoto
We will be doing 2 expensive meals and the rest we'd like to keep on a tighter budget. We will probably be doing Morimoto in Tokyo and a kaiseki lunch or dinner in kyoto. What do you recommend. We know we will be attempting to havesushi in daiwa sushi. We'd like a few recommendations for a sushi dinner, noodle dinner, tempura, and taditional japanese cuisine. Also are the conveyer belt sushis good? I'm intrigued.
Belt-sushi varies from the pretty wonderful to the just-barely-above-awful, and also varies widely in price. Based upon a Tokyo trip four years ago, for instance, I'd say the sushi at Pintokona in Roppongi (the place with the RFID chips in the plates to tell them when the sushi's been on the belt too long) was as good as you'd get in many sushi bars in Los Angeles, sitting at the bar and looking the chef in the eye. On the other hand, there's places in some of the funkier parts of town (I remember a mostly-students place in Kyoto) where I thought the sushi was dubious.
Is Alpha Hound Jim Leff's piece on eating in Tokyo (from the early chowhound days) still around? If you can get a copy, it's worth looking at for general tips on how to find reasonably priced food in Japan.
I like pintokona, I think it's a step above Kakiya in Harajuku which is in turn a step above the average conveyor belt places. There is one restaurant in the basement section of Shinjuku station that I go to consistently, but mainly due to it's location. It did get good reviews here on this board I believe, but I feel Pintokona is a bit better.
My father lives in Kyoto, its beautiful place. I recommend having tofu, it is good all over Japan, but especially so in Kyoto. You should be able to find a full course menu of just all soy products including variety of tofu, yuba, nama-fu, etc.
While you are in Tokyo, if you get a chance, check out one of the Shunju restaurants. They are one of the leaders in modern Japanese cuisine movements. A place where tradition meets modern, elegant simplicity and exquisite purity of taste, method, and appearance.
Conveyer belt sushi is good for the novelty of the conveyer belt. You have to do it just for that reason. As for the quality, there are quality conveyer belt sushi joints and others, not so much. You get what you pay for at the end.
I just ran in to this Kyoto food blog couple weeks ago, and I like it: http://www.kyotofoodie.com/