Omakase Kaiseki in Manhattan...
I am still slightly confused about the differences between Kaiseki and Omakase despite trying to research this on Chowhounds...
Sounds like Kaiseki is more of a traditional japanese formal multicourse meal made with seasonal items and Omakase is more of a chef's favorite selections?
Is that the main difference and both often come with some sashimi or sushi depending on the restaurant?
Well, I was looking for a good (not best as I know best would mean Masa or Kuruma and we're not looking to dish out over 150 per person this time for our japanese meal)...
We prefer non-trendy places but do appreciate good atmosphere, traditional setting (though it doesnt have to mean boring dishes but also nothing too crazy which we found Sushi of Gari interesting last time but didnt love so much being done to my sushi)...and ofcourse good service if thats not too much to ask.
I understand sitting at the sushi bar is often the best way to experience NY japanese food but this meal we'd like a tasting with both cooked and raw food so not just all sushi/sashimi but a selection of small japanese cooked items as well...so please advise if sitting/requesting seats in front of the sushi chef is still the best way to enjoy the restaurants.
I have read up on some recs on here and am deciding between:
-Ushiwakamaru (is Ushi the same as this place since Ive seen people mention Ushi and then Ushiwakamaru so I was confused...??)
**unless there is another MUST TRY place I am missing from the list that also is closer to 200 USD total for 2 people (we dont drink)...
Any pricing guidelines for these places would be super helpful too...
"Sounds like Kaiseki is more of a traditional japanese formal multicourse meal made with seasonal items and Omakase is more of a chef's favorite selections?"
That's pretty much it, except I think it would be pretty uncommon to get sushi as part of a kaiseki meal.
That said, they're totally different things, sort of like a steakhouse vs. a fine dining experience. There's a bit of overlap, but I wouldn't substitute one for the other.
If you want sushi then sit at the counter and ask the chef for omakase. If you want more than just sashimi and/or sushi, you could order some appetizers, but that could get expensive since in my experience that would be in addition to the cost of the omakase, which in the chef's mind may include an amuse-bouche of some sort but not much else beyond the fish. On the other hand I'm sure you could request to remain within a specific budget and have some cooked items to be included in that. That would probably mean fewer and/or less expensive pieces.
I think for this kind of thing Shimizu (get the chowan-mushi) or Ushiwakamaru (same as Ushi) could work for you.
Unlike sushi and many types of japanese cuisine, kaiseki is generally not prepared in front of the customer so the counter vs. table seating thing is a non-issue. Sugiyama is generally considered to be the best in NYC, though I haven't been in a long time, partly because it's expensive. I went to Kai a while back and it was good, but not as good as Sugiyama.
I don't know about Kyo Ya, but you may also want to look into Rosanjin.
I second Sugiyama. I was just there and had the 8 course modern kaiseki. It was delicious and filling! There was one course that was entirely sashimi, but sushi/sashimi is generally not part of kaiseki. Maybe that's why it's called "modern?" There are other kaiseki options available that go up to $160 a person. The one I chose was one of the less expensive ones at $75. It was so good I may need to go back and try one of their omakase keiseki options. Yep, you heard right! Oddly enough, they offer several options under this category (on the right side of the menu book). As the waitress explained, you choose the number of courses and the chef chooses what he wants to serve in each course. I'm used to omakase being the type where you eat til you're full and have to tell the chef to stop, with the total bill being a mystery until they hand it to you. This is not the case here, thankfully. This place is already very expensive as it is...
I believe a sashimi course always features in a kaiseki meal; rice is served later in the meal, but will be garnished with vegetables rather than fish - so no sushi.
I recommend Sugiyama too, and actually it is a good idea to sit at the counter and interact with the chef, even though the meal is pre-determined. Haven't tried Kyo Ya, but note that you need to call ahead, I think, to arrange kaiseki.
Wilfrid is right, sashimi is always served as a course in kaiseki. Sushi is not included (though I have had maki in some modern kaiseki before)
The kaiseki meal with wagyu beef at Sugiyama was very good! The beef was of great quality.
I think kathryn reported one time that Kyo Ya has temporarily stopped serving kaiseki. Not sure if they started doing kaiseki again.