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Tokyo and Kyoto Honeymoon - Help! Totally Confused

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My soon to be Wife and I will be in Japan for 12 days at the end of April / Early May 2014. We live in San Francisco, we love good food. Over the years however, I have moved away from wanting to try all the new Michelin tasting menu's and find myself just wanting delicious solid food. I.e. La Ciccia, Range, Zuni, Nopalito in SF. I have been so busy I have not had time to dedicate to Japan food research, and thus we approach the dates with no reservations, and total confusion.

It seems like the posts on chowhound re: Tokyo and Kyoto are very Michelin / Kaiseki focused. Am I just totally blowing it if I don't drop $400+ for the 2 of us to have one of these experiences? The last time I ate at Manresa in San Francisco I thought it was amazing... but not worth the $600 we spent... I could have had 3+ amazing meals for that.

Can I get "Kaiseki" type food at "normal" price range, a la carte restaurants of high quality in Japan? Should I just try to do some Bento's at the Michelin kaiseki places for lunch?

I really only want to do a $500 dinner splurge one time.. and I want it to be sushi. Saito? Ishikawa?

I'm excited to explore Soba, Tempura, and Izakaya options. I don't care about traditional French restaurants in Japan, but if its an really cool Japanese take on "french" or Italian, or whatever thats worth it, then I would be interested.

Basically can you guys give me a few great starting points for my own research, and some guidance in general about eating in these two great food cities?

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

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  1. You can enjoy some top notch meals in tokyo for $100 a person, for example lunch at seizan mita is $85 iirc, an it's no bento, and other very serious kaiseki places offer options well under $400. I think if you felt like $600 was too much for manresa, you'd feel the same about getting the $200+ course at one of most expensive places, but it's hardly necessary to do so to eat extremely well.

    One point of guidance - with the exception of some places that add a fixed service charge, there are no extras, and if you dont drink, a $100 menu will produce a check of exactly $100. If you're looking for wider coverage than what you find here, you can consult both the michelin guide (free online) and tabelog (with the help of google translate and the tutorial previously posted here , i think by silverjay)

    1. You aren't blowing it at all not spending $400+ on the handful (relatively given the number of restaurant in Tokyo) of places discussed here by people interested in Michelin Stars. In fact, if given the choice of 1 meal at a 30k at say, Ryugin, and 3 meals at 10k I choose the latter every time. I don't feel the quality goes up that much (it's often surroundings and some flash expensive ingredients).

      I highly suggest you use tabelog and google translate as Gargle suggests. You can search based on price and type of cuisine (note that in google translate the first two cuisines are "Japanese food" the first being the more general washoku and the second the more specific kaiseki/kyo ryori which refers to Kyoto style Washoku). Unless you speak Japanses, a la carte will be well nigh impossible. However, most of these kind of restaurants have set courses (in fact they emphasize it or have it exclusively). Have your hotel concierge book ahead and you can select the course price at that time. then you just show up and they know what to serve you. Note that higher prices generally means higher quality ingredients (or more expensive ingredients) rather than more food.

      Many of these restaurants are small with counters and a table, sometimes a private room. My wife and I enjoy counters at these places and have excellent meals at between 8k and 15k. Note that unless there is a private room or table with some privacy, you will be sitting close with other diners (don't know if this is an issue for the honeymoon).

      Here's a link that may help:

      http://translate.google.com/translate...

      1. Thanks for the replies! I have started to decipher tablelog a bit, and have started making a list of places generally so I can map them later. My lingering concern however is with reservations. We are doing and airbnb in Tokyo so have no concierge to book us reservations. Outside of the Top tier restaurants, am I screwed trying to walk into places like Sushi Aoki, Sushi Seizan or Sushi Sagane for lunch? Izakayas like Toritake, Warayakiya, or Nakamura for lunch or dinner?

        Basically how motivated do I need to be right now bugging my one friend living in Japan with countless reservation requests? =)

        1. Thanks for the replies! I have started to decipher tablelog a bit, and have started making a list of places generally so I can map them later. My lingering concern however is with reservations. We are doing and airbnb in Tokyo so have no concierge to book us reservations. Outside of the Top tier restaurants, am I screwed trying to walk into places like Sushi Aoki, Sushi Seizan or Sushi Sagane for lunch? Izakayas like Toritake, Warayakiya, or Nakamura for lunch or dinner?

          Basically how motivated do I need to be right now bugging my one friend living in Japan with countless reservation requests? =)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Lord Griffin

            I'd say very motivated if that's your only option. I find it very hard to walk in, particularly with no Japanese language ability.

            1. re: Lord Griffin

              Please try and call the places that seem like they may be English enabled, or bug your one friend, or else pay for a not too sophisticated concierge service, e.g. the one that comes with the more expensive AmEx cards. Walking in is difficult.