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A nice dinner out in Tokyo without breaking the bank....Kyoto recs?

OK, the tickets for May are booked! My son lives there, and he will be the main travel guide as far as restaurants are concerned (He was once a picky eater but has evolved into a chowhound). However, I would love to surprise him and his SO with a nice dinner out, somewhat elegant, and not meat-centric (DH will eat fish but not any other meat). But this trip is already going to be pricey, so I don't want TOO over the top. Preferably a locals place, but maybe somewhere the locals might go for a nice night out. He lives in Setagaya-ku, but anywhere easily accessible by public transport is fine....Also, we hope to take the bullet train up to Kyoto for a couple of days - any ideas there? I don't mind eating in the usual noodle and sushi places where he hangs out; in fact I'm looking forward to it...but something a little different and more upscale would be nice for one meal. Ideas?

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  1. Setagaya is a ward, not a neighborhood. It's quite large- actually quite wide- and stretches over A LOT of dense neighborhoods. And the whole city is pretty much accessible by public transport. So you might want to zero in on a neighborhood or two for your request. What neighborhood is your son living in? Perhaps the major hub near him might be a good area.

    ...Kyoto is southwest of Tokyo. The train system recognizes it as "down".

    4 Replies
    1. re: Silverjay

      Isn't every where else considered down from Tokyo?

      1. re: Glicoman

        my bad on the geography. Why did I think Kyoto was north of Tokyo? And you're right about size: my son tells me that I will be totally blown away by how big the city is. OK, Shibuya? Shinagawa? Meguro? Ebisu? (sp?) Those are subway stops he mentioned as being convenient to where he lives.....

        1. re: janetofreno

          I think "convenient" is being given a pretty broad interpretation here.

          1. re: janetofreno

            Sounds like he lives perhaps on the Toyoko Line or such....I would check out the Ebisu listings from Bento.com. It's a great dining neighborhood that might otherwise get overlooked for lack of daytime tourist appeal....Since you didn't specify type of food, it's best for you to peruse those listings and see what interests you and maybe come back with some ideas.

      2. If you're going to Kyoto I'd highly recommend Dining Harimaya. From what I remember, it's the son a famous kaiseki chef, that being said it was reasonable in price and left a good impression.

        You can see some photos on my blog:
        http://chowmates.com/2012/11/27/kyoto...

        Here's a link to more information:
        http://tabelog.com/kyoto/A2603/A26030...

        1. Try kokoro:

          http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1306/A13060...

          They speak English, the food is excellent, and the prices are very reasonable.

          1. For Kyoto I highly recommend ogata and Tempura matsu (not a tempura resto). The latter is a super cozy family run restaurant, great value for the type of food u get (around 12k yen) and it was so good (not just the food but also the coziness and warmth) we cancelled our dinner at tenyou to go back again in the same week. Ogata is arguable our fav refined kaiseki, we enjoyed the food much more than we did at kikunoi, chihana and Kitcho. Imo it is in my top 5 list in the world along with sushi saito, l'ambroisie, l'arpege etc. A good casual restaurant is unagi edomasa, which so far is the best unagi I hv ever had. Imo much better than nodaiwa, obana, chikuyotei etc in Tokyo. (They use wild unagi)

            1. For Tokyo I recommend Inakaya for robata style food.
              Kyoto- Gion Nanba is a great tiny place for delicious traditional kaiseki.
              Fukamachi for tempura
              Also, Giro Giro is a fun modern style kaiseki place with a young lively staff and clientele.
              Shiorian ( Arashiyama) for lunch, amazing setting in the forest overlooking the water. The food is fantastic traditional kaiseki, with several tofu dishes. ( no western style seating)

              6 Replies
              1. re: foodwhisperer

                Shoraian (not Shiorian) is not traditional kaiseki. It's just tofu. Damn good tofu, but there is nothing "kaiseki" about it. Shoraian was the weekend home of Konoe Fumimaru, the Japanese Prime Minister who preceded Hideki Tojo in September 1941. And as they say, the rest is history.

                And just to clarify, I would never, ever recommend Inakaya for anything unless you're a masochist. That place has to be the biggest ripoff in all of Japan, and that's saying something.

                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                  I think it is Fumimaro actually, but it's an unusual name.

                  It's weird isn't it? The Bubble burst but Inakaya is still trucking through. I'd actually recommend Gonpachi over it if we are sticking with the Trip Advisor type picks. At least their value is closer to reality.

                  1. re: Silverjay

                    You are correct, it is Fumimaro, a very unusal first name. Kind of like Shichizaemon or Benedict. As for Gonpachi versus Inakaya, I have to reluctantly agree. If somebody put a gun to my head and forced me to pick between the two (and I was paying), I'd also pick Gonpachi.

                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                      If I was the one paying, and somebody put a gun to my head and asked me to pick between Gompachi and Inakaya, I would tell them to pull the trigger.

                  2. re: Uncle Yabai

                    It's unfair to say it's just tofu, there was an elaborate hassun course when I went. And everyone should go there, and you need to book in advance.