Still haven't done omakase and I'm thinking of doing it for the girlfriend's birthday (she's a big seafood/sushi lover).
Any suggestions for a couple of first timers? I've heard stories about chefs that keep serving and serving until you specifically stop them, which scares me a little bit (the bill specifically). Looking for a place that has a set menu with a beginning and end. As for price, I guess I'll need to spend between $80-$100 per person?
Any tips are much appreciated.
Many sushi restaurants offer "chef's choice" plates that come with a selection of fish that ostensibly is the chef's choice for the day. However, the selection is fixed at the point it's served to you, and the last piece of sushi you have from the plate may not be as "fresh" as the first piece--not that the last piece would have turned bad in the five or ten minutes it sat on the plate, but it's not optimal.
Also, I really enjoy the experience of having the chef serve single pieces of sushi over a period of time, which allows him (or her, but usually him) and you to navigate your meal together. So that if you really liked one fish, the itamae could offer another in a similar vein, or conversely steer away from other fish if you didn't care for something, so speak up during the meal.
Speaking of speaking up, Most places will respect a price ceiling that you set, so be clear about your budget and you won't be hit with a surprise.
I would recommend trying Kiriko's prix fixe lunch omakase ($40 sushi-only/$50 sushi and sashimi) as great middle-ground between chef's choice platters and completely freeform omakase. The sushi is served individually, so you can tailor your experience, but it has a definitive beginning and end, and no surprises on the bill. You can read about my experiences with their lunch omakases here:
And just today, I posted about their full omakase here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860971.
Since it's a birthday celebration, unless you work closeby to each other (and to Kiriko), a lunch may not be doable (no lunch service on the weekends). Still I would recommend Kiriko as a very non-intimidating sushi-ya to have your first omakase.
Otherwise, ask for omakase, tell them your budget, and tell them you want 2 pieces of each order for you and your GF to split (because if you go to a place like Gen, they'll give you 4 pieces of each item and charge you accordingly). If you want sushi only, you would also specify that.