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Here it is, my Tokyo and Kyoto selection - Final advices welcomed

Thank you all for the help you've given me on my previous post (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/829532) as well as on all the golden pages of Chowhound.

I have finally (almost) narrowed down my choices for my trip to Tokyo and Kyoto in September 2012, and am coming for a last checkup with the brains (and bellies) of Chowhound.

TOKYO
3 stars:
- Ryugin or Takazawa (formerly known as Aronia de Takazawa). I am leaning towards Takazawa now.

Sushi:
- Sushi Dai or Daiwa Sushi or Sushi Bun (whichever has the shortest line)
- Sushi Saito (or Sushi Sawada if my budget increases in the next 2 months... but doubtful)

Ramen:
- Warita
- Kururi
- Suzuran
- Menya Kissou
- Ivan Ramen (maybe, if it isn't too much of a pain to get there depending on the day's planned itinerary).

Unagi:
- Nodaiwa

Soba:
- Narutomi

Yakitori:
- Souten or Fuku (am leaning towards Souten, but Fuku is cheaper, and right now I'm working on a tight budget).

Tempura:
- Tsunahachi

Wagyu/Kobe beef:
- 511

KYOTO
Ryokan/Kaiseki:
- Hiirajiya

Shojin Riyori:
- Izusen or Shigetsu (both sound equally nice, so will probably end up in the most convenient one depending on our itinerary).

Udon:
- Yamamoto Menzo

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We will of course eat in many other places, but those are the "destination meals" I have planned. You are all very welcome to comment on anything you want.
Of course I am aware that not all my choices are the "top choice" in its category, I had to take the budget into consideration, and it will still be the most I've spent on food of all the trips of my life...

How long in advance should I make reservations for the top restaurants like Takazawa or Sushi Saito ? Should I call them already for September ?
And what about the other restaurants (Souten, Tsunahachi, 511...) ? Can I make a reservation when I'm already there one or two days in advance or is that too short notice ?

Again, thank you all for the tremendous help you've given me on planning my trip. I'm sure I'll post some more before I go, but I'll also make sure and make a thorough trip report when I come back in October.
Cheers,
Rio Yeti

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  1. I just posted an answer for you on the difference in eating sushi with fingers or with hashi.. For the reservation, I will ask my hotel concierge to check at sushi Saitou and Takazawa the delay. After in Tokyo, what are your plan ? Do you want to go to Akihabara ? Ueno ? .. and depending on the location, the board will try to help.

    1. Takazawa doesn't have any Michelin stars (if that's what you meant). Reservations for Aronia de Takazawa were 3 months before. You can do it through e-mail, in english, so it's one of the easiest reservations. For Saito, you need to call through your hotel concierge. I've booked for lunch one week before, but for dinner you should try calling 1 month in advance -- that is if your hotel can help you with reservations before you check in.

      I've never been to Souten, Tsunahachi or 511, but most restaurants of this kind are possible to book 2 days in advance.

      1. One or two days for reservations might be pushing it for some of these places - I'd ask your hotel to reserve a week in advance if possible. Especially for Fridays at dinnertime, which tend to be full just about everywhere.

        1. You don't need reservations for Tsunahachi, but if you go during prime time, you'll be waiting for a while. That might depend on which Tsunahachi to which you are going (I went to the main one in Shinjuku.

          BTW, the website for Tsunahachi has a coupon for a free drink with your meal http://www.tunahachi.co.jp/en/coupon/... (I am not related to the business or website in any way; just noticed it there when I was checking which branch I went to).

          1. Sushi Bun is probably the worst of your choices. It could have been a bad day, but the rice was super mushy on the day I went.

            Tsunahachi doesnt have much of a wait. There is also the higher end Tsunahachi Rin as option if you want more of a splurge. Maybe hold off on Tempura in Tokyo and goto Ten You in Kyoto.

            1. For Ramen, I'd branch out a little bit. These are all good shops, but I always recommend Nidaime Tsujita (they have an english website now that they opened a shop in LA). It's phenomenal. One of the most balanced bowls I can ever remember eating.

              Ramen:
              - Warita
              - Kururi
              - Suzuran
              - Menya Kissou
              - Ivan Ramen (maybe, if it isn't too much of a pain to get there depending on the day's planned itinerary).

              5 Replies
              1. re: lost squirrel

                What do you recommend at Nidaime Tsujita ? Because on their website I see they mention their Tsukemen first... so that would be adding yet another Tsukemen ramen to the list, which I don't mind at all except it doesn't fit with you advice to also try different ramens ;)
                (but I can also get their regular ramen or miso-ramen, if you think they're equally good).

                1. re: Rio Yeti

                  I think you'll be happy with either the nidaime ramen or tsukemen. The special version is always sold when I go, but otherwise I'd give that a try. I love them both equally. If you're a big eater, get the chasiu-gohan (rice with roasted pork), although they've been sold out of it the past 5 times I've been there.

                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                    The Miso Ramen there is insane. I would personally go for that over the Tsukemen. If you have a dining partner however, why don't one of you get the Tsukemen and one of you get the Miso and switch midway through. Cover better ground that way.

                2. For tempura, I would recommend yokota. http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1307/A130... .
                  It was impressive in all respect. Better value than the more expensive/more Michelin starred choices.
                  I went to nodaiwa last month. It was just average. Back then natural unagi was not in season. Do call and check if they have natural unagi. It is much better.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CWFOODIE

                    You might mention that your suggested tempura restaurant is around five or ten times more expensive than OP's original choice.

                  2. For soba, I also find sangoan 三合菴 refreshingly good. Their egg omelet is also superb. Expect to queue outside the shop during lunch time.

                    1. Thank you all very much for your replies !

                      Ninisix:
                      Yes I read your comment on the other thread. I didn't know a sushi-ya adapted his sushi based on the way you are eating them. I will definitely use my fingers, just because I like eating with my fingers ;)
                      Thankfully we will be staying at a friend's house who recently moved to Japan. Unfortunately that means we do not have a concierge. I have a couple Japanese friends in Paris who I'll ask to help with the reservations.
                      Once in Tokyo, I'll be staying around Shibuya. I'm definitely going to Ueno, and the National Museum of Western Art. In fact my whole trip will be focused on food and art/culture, rather than going to see the freaky-electronics-manga-technology-etc. (not that there's anything wrong with that). :)

                      babreu:
                      Yes I know Takazawa doesn't "technically" have a Michelin star. I should have called this category "Splurge meal" or just "High-end dinner", but you get the idea. I will make the reservation for it this week, 4 months should be enough hopefully. And I'll ask a friend of mine to call Sushi Saito to see how long in advance I can make a reservation.

                      Robb S:
                      Ok. Since I won't have a hotel/concierge. I'll just try and have my french host in Tokyo call the other places once we get there, a few days in advance. (hopefully he'll talk enough Japanese by then to make a reservation).

                      prasantrin:
                      Thanks for the coupon, unfortunately it expires this month, but I'll check out before I go if they have another coupon on their website. I don't really know to which Tsunahachi I plan to go, probably the main one as well.

                      Ricky:
                      Ok, noted. I'll check some other reviews but try to go to one of the other two places.
                      About Ten You, it seems to be twice as expensive as Tsunahachi... so unfortunately I will not be able to stretch my budget for it.

                      lost squirrel:
                      What do you mean by "branching out" ? Do you feel the ramen places I have selected are too similar ?
                      Anyway, I'm adding Nidaime Tsujita to the list ! Thanks.

                      CWFOODIE:
                      As Robb S is mentioning, I cannot splurge on tempura, although I am aware the difference can be phenomenal. For my first encounter with Japan I have decided to splurge on sushi and Takazawa. I'll go to a high-end tempura place next time.
                      I checked out sangoan, I'll add it to the list, from what I could see it's pretty cheap, so if I'm in the neighborhood I'll drop by.

                      Everyone, I forgot to ask a question in my original post. In the restaurant list I posted, is there any restaurant which you feel has a great lunch deal ? I don't mind going to all of them at lunch, but sometimes lunch deals, although interesting budget-wise, can be a little disappointing food-wise. What do you think ?

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: Rio Yeti

                        I think 511 has good lunch deals - that might be where you can save the most by going at lunchtime. Nodaiwa might also be a better deal at lunchtime, but check the online menu prices to confirm that.

                        I would avoid the yakitori places at lunchtime (if they're even open for lunch).

                        1. re: Robb S

                          Thanks a lot, I will check that.

                        2. re: Rio Yeti

                          Takazawa will begin taking reservations 3 months before, so you don't need to call them yet.

                          1. re: Rio Yeti

                            Yeah, I think if you know what you like - then by all means go for it. But otherwise, I'd try to find some different styles to explore. Maybe a taishoken-ish ramen.

                            I see you're staying in Shibuya - right where Suzuran is supposed to be, there is a new-ish version of Nagi that is doing a deep dark niboshi broth. It's pretty good, if a bit excessive.

                            1. re: lost squirrel

                              Actually you're right, I realize I almost only chose ramen shops specialized in tsukemen (except for Kururi and Ivan Ramen).
                              I really want to taste those thick noodles and the pork belly at Suzuran, and Menya Kissou is said to be the best... so maybe I'll get rid of Warita (actually I can't seem to find any info on it anymore... I may have misspelled it, will check my list again when I get back home tonight).

                              Nagi's "Black King" ramen, sounds interesting. I'll add that to the list, thanks !

                              1. re: Rio Yeti

                                It's Warito actually and it's walkable from Shibuya Station.

                                1. re: Silverjay

                                  Thank you. Yes, now I remember why I chose this one... well, I ain't kicking it out of the list, I guess I'll just have my share of tsukemen.

                              2. re: lost squirrel

                                Squirrel you are talking about this one?

                                http://www.n-nagi.com/news/4651

                                So this is a new branch of Nagi?, the map sort of indicates it's not the same branch as the existing Shibuya one.

                                Funnily enough I dined at their sister shop Butao in HK last month, the Causeway Bay one. Very good.

                                FWIW I recently grabbed the domain names ramenhk.com and ramenhongkong.com.

                                1. re: kamiosaki

                                  That's the one. I went looking for Suzuran but my memory failed me again.

                                  Speaking of ramen, I'm heading to Ramen Street again for lunch today in about 30 minutes. This will be my 5th time in 10 days - heart attach city!

                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                      acromioclavicular joint!

                                      Thank god I can still get chopsticks to my mouth.

                                      I had Mutsumiya yesterday in Tokyo Ramen Street. The noukou miso ramen was very good and quite satisfying. Stay away from the chasiu and stick with the extra fatty pork. The regular stuff is just so-so.

                              3. re: Rio Yeti

                                if you want to impregnate more yourself on popular food, without hurting your budget, i will recommend you to do the walk on the old district of Nippori to Ueno, and you will pass by the 47 samourai's temple, a remain of Edo wall, temples,. and in Nezu, there is some small & popular japanese udon like NenoZu that merits to try for their "bukake udon(cold udon with sesame, grated daikon, ginger, ooba,;;)" or the Unagi Unageya near Nishi-nippori for the 1100.-yens wafu donburi with slice of unagi,  .. In Ueno, the places i repeat is the curry shop in Okachimachi for the spice
                                Curry Delhi
                                http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131...
                                Unagi Unageya
                                http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131...
                                Udon Ne no Zu
                                http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131...
                                or more expensive the "tori sukiyaki" with the kaiseki menu at 4800yens in the Ueno garden
                                Ueno Inshoutei
                                http://r.tabelog.com/tokyo/A1311/A131...

                                1. re: Ninisix

                                  Thanks for the recs. I'll look into them... I will surely make a google map of all the places I want to visit, with all the restaurants I don't want to miss, and a bunch of restaurants to go "if we're in the neighborhood". It's hard to "plan everything without planning everything", I don't want to have the whole trip dictated by maps, I also want to wander around a bit... that being said I also understand how difficult the address system is, and therefore I'm aware that I will have to print out some maps anyway...