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Question re. November Reservations - Restaurants I'm waiting to book and likelihood of availability/issues

Most of our reservations for Kyoto and Osaka are already booked, with one or two exceptions. Unfortunately, I've had no success for Tokyo. It seems that most of the restaurants in Tokyo have not yet opened their calendars for early November seating yet, which I find strange considering we have bookings at popular restaurants for mid-November in Kyoto and Osaka already.

I'm not sure if this is relevent, but I'm somewhat concerned due to my experience with booking Sushi Saito. Perhaps Saito is an exceptional circumstance. I had been trying to get a reservation at Saito for 6 months and had been told time and again that it was far too soon to book. Now the entire restaurant has been booked solid through to year's end. I've contacted a regular of Sushi Saito whom I invited to join my wife and myself for dinner, but after having called Saito to inquire, the person wrote back to apologize and say that it's impossible and we should have done this months ago. I wish I had the knowledge months ago. I know I shouldn't be too disappointed given the difficulty of obtaining a reservation at Saito, but I can't help but feel frustrated because I've planned everything else so thoughtfully and this was really "number one" on my list.

I really do not want to make the same mistake with any of our other dining plans. That's why I'm posting this thread and requesting feedback on my itinerary. I would like to know if there's likelihood or possibility of a similar encounter with any of the places that I've not yet been able to obtain reservations for.

Here's a list of restaurants that are not yet booked:

- RyuGin - (too early for OCT. 30 reservation?)

- Sushi Sawada - (accept booking for OCT. 31 one month prior to date according to The Peninsula)

- Ginza Okuda - (too early for NOV. 01 reservation?)

- 7chome Kyoboshi - (accept booking for NOV. 04 from SEPT. 01 according to The Peninsula)

- Kagurazaka Ishikawa - (accept booking for NOV. 05 from SEPT. 01 according to The Peninsula)

- Sushi Yoshitake - (accept booking for NOV. 06 from OCT. 01 according to The Peninsula)

- Kamigamo Akiyama - (accept booking for NOV. 18 from OCT. 02 according to The Hyatt)

- Fujiya 1935 - (accept booking for NOV. 24 from SEPT. 25 according to St. Regis)

Does all of this information seem accurate? Are any of the above restaurants particularly competetive when it comes to obtaining reservations and are there any others that we may have difficulty getting reservations for if waiting until "calendars open" according to our concierge?

Is Sawada especially difficult to book and does it operate similarly to Saito wherein it could get fully booked by regulars months in advance? I will be extremely disappointed if we're not able to get into Sawada at this point.

I believe the person that I previously contacted for Saito is also a regular at Sawada. I'm considering asking for his assistance with this reservation as well, however it's quite expensive and if there's strong likelihood of obtaining a reservation through our hotel in September (for an Oct. 31 booking) then I'd prefer to go that route. If it's a similar situation to Saito however, then I'd rather not chance disappointment and I will eagerly extend an offer to join us for dinner. I hope that doesn't make me sound like a cheapskate as I love to take part in 'meet and eats' when travelling, but it comes at a price and I would like to know if I should just let it ride and have faith in my concierge or if there's a good chance of letdown?

What about other restaurants like 7chome, Ishikawa, RyuGin, Okuda, Fujiya1935, etc? Are these difficult to get into and do the calendar dates that were passed along from our concierge seems to correspond with our desired reservations? Does it all seem kosher?

Again, the only reason for my slight skepticism, is because I've been able to book equally big-name restaurants in Kyoto and Osaka as of several weeks ago, all the way through the end of November. I find it odd that I have to wait another 1-2 months for Tokyo reservations in late-October/early-November. As long as the informed members of Chowhound offer reassurance that all seems A-OK then I'll rest easy and wait for our hotels to sort everything out in the dining department.

Thanks so much for your input and feedback!

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  1. What is this fetish with Saito or Sawada or whatever has been deemed "the best" by who the hell knows who? I've been to Saito, it's most fine. But just today I had a sushi dinner at a place that I booked a week ago that was as good as Saito for half the price. And there are a good couple dozen places in Tokyo alone that are as good (or better) than Saito that don't require contortions to eat there.

    I have a feeling Saito-san is probably ruing the day he let those imbeciles from Michelin anoint his hole-in-the-wall counter inside a miserable garage the holy grail of Japan sushi.

    90 Replies
    1. re: Uncle Yabai

      Is this really necessary? Aren't we all here to share information of great restaurant experiances. If people are not here because of that why are they here? If someone wants to experience Sushi Saito because they think it should be a good experience why should they be judged wrong when the very same arguments used by the people thinking Saito isn't what should be made first priority also could be used to argument for enjoying Sushi Saito? I have a hard time understanding this. After what is good is a personal preference.

      1. re: Roysen

        Thank you, Roysen!

        This is a trip that my wife and I have dreamed about taking our whole lives. My wife used to work for the UN and has been to over 35 countries. Her family lived in Japan briefly for several years after war. Her grandfather worked for an aeronautics engineering company and was transfered to a small town just outside of Kyoto, I believe. She grew up with Japanese culture as a result, and I've been infatuated by it as well for much of my life. I've studied Japanese literature and film in college, and have always dreamed about making this trip a reality, but I never felt that I had the right person to share the experience until I met my wife! We decided to delay our honeymoon a full year-and-a-half to save and plan for it. Yes, we've chosen many high end restaurants which get talked about a lot, but we've chosen many small local places as well, and have left more than a fair share of meals open for discovery. I just find it incredibly presumptuous for anyone to pass judgement and make the assumption that we're typical uneducated tourists spending our money in gaijin-friendly places directed by Michelin. I've spent more than a year absorbing as much as I could from the internet, books, friends, etc. Saito has been a restaurant that I've been looking forward to from the get-go, and as far as I can tell, the majority of patrons are in fact, locals - not tourists. As I've unfortunately learned, it's not an easy reservation to get for a first-time visitor. I find Yabai's post to be entirely misdirected. I'm not responsible for perpetuating all the "hype" around Saito-san, it's his sushi that obviously speaks for itself. This is why I was determined to experience it. In the end, I'm sure wherever we end up will be more than satisfactory and any sushi in Tokyo will surely be exceptional in comparisson to what we have in Northern California. That said, to dismiss sweeping acknowledgment from the many (mostly local Japanese) customers who consider Saito-san to prepare the best sushi in Tokyo, as foolish, sheepish, fetishist (??) is absurd. I've never stated it's the best in the world or even the best in Tokyo. I simply said that I was disappointed that I could not get a reservation, after having eagerly anticipated visiting for the better part of a year. It really wasn't even the focus of my initial post. I am obviously discerning enough to use Chowhound as regular resource (along with blogs and other outlets) rather than relying on the typical guidebooks and travel websites which I won't name. It's true that we have chosen many high-end costly restaurants, but this is an exceptional trip and we are treating it as a very special ocassion - it's not every year that we take 5 full weeks to travel through foreign countries, experiencing the big cities and small rural towns; culture and refinement to history and wild, natural beauty of diverse landscapes - from teeming urban metropolis to remote mountain villages and quaint seaside towns. This is very special trip (I'm not sure if it still qualifies as a honeymoon after 1.5 years but we consider it so!) and it stands to reason, that a bit of indulgence at special ocassion restaurants would not seem out of the ordinary. Especially with so much time spent in rural parts of the country from Gunma to Nagano, Gifu, Ishikawa, etc. We don't typically eat at Michelin restaurants every week... or month... or every six months! I don't feel that I should have to justify my dining itinerary to anyone when all that I seek is some cordial advice and feedback (not unmerited judgement) but hopefully this might help a few people off their high horse.

        1. re: OliverB

          I also think the culture growing on the Japan board of chowhound that everyone not a residen of Japan would not understand the cuisine served at a top Japanese restaurant and that everyone wanting to visit what they have gotten the impressions are the best restaurants are Michelin star hunters and not real food lovers is very bad for the forum and very wrong.

          You should know I get a lot of the same reactions as you even though I have tried to explain that this is a dream I want to realize with the time I have left before I die of the terminal cancer case I have. I mean what value would showing off having dined at a lot of Michelin stars have to a person in my situation?

          1. re: OliverB

            "That said, to dismiss sweeping acknowledgment from the many (mostly local Japanese) customers who consider Saito-san to prepare the best sushi in Tokyo, as foolish, sheepish, fetishist (??) is absurd."

            This is an interesting point. You'd be surprised at how vehement the disagreements are among the Japanese as to whether Saito is the "best". Everybody has their favorites, and I'd bet if you asked sushi mavens in Tokyo (Japanese and not) about their favorite place, "they'd say it's XXX which is as good/better than Saito or whatever, but it isn't overrun with star feckers and tourists. I'll take you there next time".

            The reason you don't hear a broader range of options in this website (or even Tabelog for that matter) is because those who have other preferences pretty much keep them to themselves or to a trusted group of people they know (even some they've met through boards such as these).

            To be blunt, they don't want to report too broadly at the risk of those places ending up like Saito. I went to Saito when it wasn't impossible to book. Now it is, so I don't go anymore, not because I don't want to, but because I can't, really. It was even possible to just walk in, believe it or not. And that frosts my cockles, so I'd rather not get too "informative" about other options precisely because I don't want them to end up like Saito.

            As a matter of fact, the "best" sushi I've had in Tokyo was at a place that has no entries in Tabelog besides the name and address. I learned about this place from people who frequent and post this very website, but they sure as hell aren't going to reveal that to either of you. And neither will I. So there, I've said it, so discuss among yourselves. I'm outta here.

            1. re: Uncle Yabai

              Uncle Yabai,

              I don't blame you for wanting to protect your favourite sushi-yasan from becoming an equally hard to reserve place like sushi saito. That is only natural. I would have done the same too. What I wouldn't have done though is write on the forum that this and this restaurant are som much better than Sushi Saito. You are a star fetcher for wanting to go there so badly. Go to one of the better and cheaper places. I know where they are but I certainly will not tell you. I would have kept my mouth entirely shot about it. Not a word.

          2. re: Roysen

            The problem lies in that what defines quality for much English (and other non-language) content on Tokyo restaurants is based on a relatively narrow set of Michelin restaurants that are discussed over and over. The impression one tends get then from doing research online is that these are the best restaurants. Therefore the extent to which these may in fact be high quality places worth visiting ultimately depends on how well Michlin does its job.

            My opinion is that Michelin is fine for France, ok to sub-par for some other European countries and not very good at all outside of those, particularly. Tokyo is such a large city with so many restaurants (the most of any city in the world) that I am sure that Michelin could have put an entirely different set of restaurants in its guide with no drop in quality (it's likely there are enough restaurnts who refused listing to populate a second book). Moreover, those restaurants if they were included would likely then become lionized and sought after in the same manner.

            Many people who live in Tokyo (and some others as well) regard this reliance on the Michelin guide (directly or indirectly) as strange given the wide range of quality available. One could counter that due to the fact that there is less non-Japanese language coverage of non-Michelin restaurants and so it's nautral that most non-Japanese discussion on the internet would focus on those. However, it would seem to me that the spirit of Chowhound is to find and discuss a wider range of places than this and this then becomes frustrating when the focus is placed on the same set of restaurants again and again. This forum seems to have moved even more toward dealing with requests to compare a small group of Michelin restaurants and assist with bookings (no doubt complicated by the same food tourism focus on such a narrow group).

            1. re: tigerjohn

              I think that beleif is an illusion. To me at least and to the poster of the OP in this thread that is not the case. I have broadened my search far outside Michelin and my browser has the capability to translate Japanese texted reviews and blogs to a languagte I can understand, so I can actually read any webpage in Japanese. As you might understand the research foundation is not just Michelin anymore.

              1. re: Roysen

                Sure, but you're the exception.

                1. re: Roysen

                  I wasn't specifically identifying anyone with my comment. Just noting the general trend. Moreover, I was not saying people use Michelin directly. It's more that the influence of Michelin on non-Japanese discussion of Tokyo restaurants in particular means that that is where many people end up, even if they never associate such places with Michelin. The OPs comment that it is presumptuous to assume that a belief in a particular restaurant is due to Michelin hype might be true for any one person but I feel it's not true when you look at the overall volume of posters.

                  There is certainly no illusion that the same restaurants keep coming up again and again and that regardless of how these restaurants are viewed by people living in Japan, there are more than just this list that are appreciated (a point Uncle Yabai makes). You yourself have posted the top 30 sushi restaurants in Tokyo here. Despite this, for many we hear the same: "I want to book at Saito and if not perhaps I should book at Sawada as a second choice."

                  1. re: tigerjohn

                    I don't know, the poster right before you (who was so critical of my choices) just posted that the best sushi he's ever enjoyed is at a place that he refuses to name, so what do you really expect?

                    I happen to have a Japanese acquaintance who's hipped me to some under the radar places... two of which are supposed to be 'up there' with Saito: Ichiyangi and Imamura. Apparently both chefs trained at Kanesaka and are very similar in style. That said, he still suggests that Sawada (price notwithstanding) serves the best quality of fish.

                    Obviously much of what qualifies as "best" is subjective, however since nobody here is willing to "out" there favorite places out of some silly fear that they might get discovered by tourists, I'm going to book at the places that have been written up, and I'm going to aim for those that have been consistently reviewed the highest. I'm also going to try a number of different places, serving different styles, to formulate my own opinion.

                    I'm hoping for Sawada (now that Saito is no longer an option) along with Yoshitake, and we're doing Hatsunezushi for lunch as well - not necessarily for quality but the experience. In Takayama we're visiting Michiya-Zushi Okimuraya. In Kanazawa, Otomezushi. I had considered Koyoshi in Osaka, but I've heard some really bad feedback which is steering me away. Not really a sushiya but Maguro Koya in Nara for maguro. The point is, I'm not just blindly picking out ONE sushi restaurant that some blogger deems the best in the whole wide world and then splurging on that because it's a famous Michelin rated expensive gaijin destination that's plastered all over the web.

                    I'm trying to be discerning by reading Chowhound, reading blog entries, filtering the results, and then picking out a number of different places which are consistently highest rated yet serve different styles, and trying a few to determine for myself. I'm also contrasting that with less "noteworthy" spots in smaller towns that don't command the highest price tags and don't get blasted all over the web. What's "best" for one is not necessarily "best" for another, and everything from ambiance and service can feed into the overall "value".

                    I would never go to Jiro for instance, not because I feel the meal would be disappointing (though I've heard it's vastly overrated) but because I don't think it's an experience that I would enjoy. It seems way too formal and pretentious, not to mention rushed. If people on Chowhound aren't willing to offer suggestions or alternatives though, then it's only reasonable to expect that there will continue to be posts from visitors asking about the Saitos and Sawadas of Tokyo.

                    It's really no different than any other local Chowhound board... how many posts on the San Francisco forum are asking about Saison vs. Benu vs. Coi vs. whatever. Yes, it may be annoying, but keep in mind that tourists tend to not eat in the same style as locals and not everyone is after the same experience. Personally, I tend to seek out old restaurants in the States with character to spare; even at the compromise of "the best" meal, at times. In San Francisco, I'll take any mid century meat and martini place over trendy ten course tasting menus, but that's not because I don't enjoy fine dining. It's because those type of restaurants in the Bay Area are not really that unique to me, and they don't reflect the culture or heritage of the city. I'd rather save those type of meals for somewhere special like Eleven Madison Park in NYC, which also happens to be my favorite restaurant in the U.S.

                    BUT to someone coming to San Francisco from Dallas TX, a restaurant like Saison IS probably unique and worthwhile! It's the same for many of these destination restaurants in Japan, I imagine.

                    What I do find interesting (and really appealing) about Japan, is that you can get the best of both worlds at places like Kahala or Kitcho, where the food is exceptional and the experience memorable, while history and culture resonate strongly. Yes, I'm sure there are countless low-key izakaya bars and other non-Michelin places where this holds equally true... believe it or not, we're visiting many of them! I haven't posted about them because I've had little need to since they're simple, straightforward restaurants with no strings attached. I don't need to figure out how I'm going to pull reservations or secure seating through various outlets, so they don't get posted about - that doesn't mean I'm a Michelin robot who doesn't have a clue.

                    Another fact to note, is that I'm travelling for my honeymoon and the trip is a special and celebratory one, so much of our dining *will* be at special high-end places to reflect this. I imagine this to be the case for many other travellers as well. That's just the way it goes.

                    I can say that while most people have been extremely helpful and friendly on this board, in the ten or so threads that I've started, I've yet to receive a single recommendation for some "new" restaurant that I haven't already heard or read about.

                    In fact, in one of my earliest posts, someone (possibly Silverjay) suggested that Tokyo is too big a city for recommendations and that people tend to eat based on convenience, or something to that effect... which seems to stand in complete opposition to the mission of Chowhound, as far as I'm concerned. I really don't think that anyone has a right to be critical given the "we can't be bothered" or "you're not in our club" attitude that seems so prevalent on this board.

                    Again, if there are great places that are deserving of equal praise as Saito, RyuGin, etc - PLEASE let us know so that we can discover them as well. We WANT to know about these places! My only interest in visiting this board is to seek out the best food on my travels. My sonar is going to be directed at places that get talked about, not the ones that don't. That's just common sense, right?

                    1. re: OliverB

                      "Hatsunezushi for lunch as well - not necessarily for quality but the experience."

                      I'll tell the chef you're just there for the experience.

                      1. re: OliverB

                        "My sonar is going to be directed at places that get talked about, not the ones that don't. That's just common sense, right?"

                        Yes. And to react to this and Robb's post below, the problem is that relative to size of the options on offer (in contrast to a city like San Francisco which is much smaller), there is a lot of information about a narrow range of restaurants in English and to some extent other non-Japanese languages. So you might understand the frustration about being asked about the same restaurants again and again. This also leads people who have alternatives to "protect" their favorite places because the list is limited and any new place that gets into the echo chamber is like to be overrun (also Japanese restaurants tend to have fewer seats).

                        When I look at other chowhound boards, you see a lot of people interested in both cheap and mid-range restaurants (in Japan anywhere from 7,000-15,000 yen per person) but you rarely see that here. It's all sushi, a handful of kaseki/washoku places and some single dish request (which amazingly, there is generally a small range of requests about despite a greater willingness from posters here to share more good examples of these types of places).

                        I generally am not able to respond to requests because people cite and want to compare this narrow range and don't seem interested recommendations for mid-range dining, despite the fact that for the most part, I find the experience equally as satisfying as the times I've been the top places, usually more so. But this last point is subjective on my part as others may enjoy having a more high end experience.

                        I should also note that my comments are only in general and not based on your particular requests/research posts.

                        1. re: OliverB

                          The picatta at Tadich Grill is outstanding. Old school place.

                        2. re: tigerjohn

                          Good points.

                          For someone who lives in Tokyo and enjoys eating out, sometimes reading this board is like a peek into a parallel universe. Imagine if the New York board went from freewheeling discussions of ethnic eateries in Queens, but then gradually most of the postings started being about a handful of very expensive steak restaurants. With multiple long threads about the best way to get a reservation at Peter Luger. And people planning multi-steakhouse itineraries, plus lunches at three or four famous hotdog stands.

                          That's what it feels like sometimes on the Japan board. I do sometimes get a first-hand glimpse at the parallel universe in person - on several occasions I've been to famous Michelin-starred places (usually with visitors from out of town) where there were no Japanese customers at all, or only one or two. Sometimes the people I'm with don't even notice - they see Asian-looking faces and assume that everyone is from Japan, not noticing that they're not speaking Japanese.

                    2. re: Roysen

                      I wouldn't criticize someone who had their heart set on going to Restaurant X, but if they absolutely couldn't get in I might try to make them feel better by mentioning that it's not the end of the world - they might have just as good a meal at Restaurant Y or indeed at any of a hundred other restaurants. I think that's part of what's going on here, although it might be expressed in different ways.

                      I generally don't respond to sushi threads myself because I'm not all that interested. If I walk ten minutes south from my apartment I will pass hundreds of restaurants, serving great sake, Japanese regional cuisine, yakitori, Indian food, international cuisine and lots more. Many of them serve very nice raw fish, but there are very few sushi restaurants - I can think of only two offhand but I'm sure there are a few more. But I think a lot of new posters here (not you or the OP of this thread though) imagine Japanese cities to be wall-to-wall sushi restaurants, interrupted by the occasional ramen shop.

                      1. re: Robb S

                        Well, there are some 5000 sushi restaurants in Tokyo. That's over 5% of all restaurants, a good 12% of all Japanese restaurants, and 40% of all Japanese restaurants where dinner is over $100pp, which is the range where moneyed visitors are looking at.

                        So it is pretty much wall to wall if you're looking for expensive Japanese food.

                        1. re: Gargle

                          Well yes, and it's even more wall-to-wall if you're looking for expensive restaurants that serve raw fish.

                          On the other hand, the vast majority of visitors to Japan are quite happy to spend less than US$100pp per meal.

                          1. re: Robb S

                            Yes, but then they don't come here asking for advice (unless they have some weird dietary restrictions).

                            I think most people coming here from places like nyc, SF, Oslo (or wherever Roysen is from), etc. and staying at expensive hotels don't think $100 is a lot. In fact on the nyc boards you see the claim made often enough that any proper meal at a modestly ambitious sit down restaurant in Manhattan will cost you that. (Zagat places the average at $50, but that's with one glass of cheap wine and before tip, and include many restaurants of no ambition)

                            So it's natural for people to assume if they don't spend enough they're not going to eat good food, and just as natural to think that the opportunity cost is high (they are paying for an expensive flight, hotels, etc.) and not to be that interested in eating at a place like this at 1am, as terrific as that might be.

                            https://www.google.co.jp/search?q=%E9...

                            1. re: Gargle

                              I really don't know what that has to do with anything. My point simply was that Japan isn't wall-to-wall expensive sushi restaurants, unlike what some people might imagine. I have no idea why anyone would argue with that.

                              In fact the meals eaten at exclusive, 12-seat sushi counters like Sushi Saito and others discussed on this board make up only an infinitesimal fraction of the meals consumed in Tokyo every day.

                              1. re: Robb S

                                I agree with Robb. Most sushi shops I am familiar with have 8 to 12 seats at the counter, if that. And outside of Ginza, an area where customers pay for some of the most expensive real estate on earth, I think 30,000 yen (including drinks) for two would be considered to be a very expensive dinner, something that very few Japanese people would ever do outside of a business dinner. Just to try to put things in perspective.

                                I do want to add that this has been one of the better threads in a long while.

                                1. re: Robb S

                                  Out of curiosity, do you genuinely feel that these "overhyped" places are simply not that great, or do you just consider them unnecessary in terms of value for yen? For instance, would anyone here really argue that Saito-san is not a first-rate itamae? Or is it strictly the plethora of discussions surrounding places like Saito that are at the core of the issue? If Sushi Saito were not excessively hyped on travel and food blogs by Western tourists, would you consider it praiseworthy or is the fact that despite the extremely proficient and high quality offerings, it's so overly aggrandized that other restaurants which may in fact be better reflective of Tokyo's local dining culture (more "authentic" in feel) get swept under the rug? This same question applies to all the big name restaurants like RyuGin, Ishikawa, etc. Would these be potential candidates for "special ocassion" meals that do in fact, merit their acclaim, were you not so sick of hearing about them? Or do you truly believe that none of them offer the level of refinement that's to be found in significantly better Tokyo kitchens that don't get spoken of and cost considerably less?

                                  1. re: OliverB

                                    I would think a place like Saito would stand on its own, abnormal, pathological interest or not. Definitely first rate, sitting in a group that probably numbers dozens of sushi shops in Tokyo alone. Maybe even one of the best, top 10, top 20, don't know, the food universe in Tokyo is vast and undiscovered even by very dedicated food sleuths.

                                    Does it deserve the fetishistic "Oooo if I don't get into Saito I'm going to poke my eyes out with a sewing needle and then dedicate my life to begging in Ginza to atone for my sins" attitude? No.

                                    1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                      "Does it deserve the fetishistic "Oooo if I don't get into Saito I'm going to poke my eyes out with a sewing needle and then dedicate my life to begging in Ginza to atone for my sins" attitude?"

                                      No restaurants would fit into such a category in my mind, but people tend to not give up when they have set themselvs a goal. Also many people coming from outside Japan are not used to it being so hard to reserve restaurants, so they will ususaly beleive that if they can manage to find the right way they will probably make the reservation. That could certainly be very naive, but I think that is more the case than anyone thinking the restaurants belong in the category you suggested.

                                    2. re: OliverB

                                      >Out of curiosity, do you genuinely feel that these "overhyped" places are simply not that great

                                      Of the places I alluded to earlier that were full of tourists, I don't think there are any I would go back to, and very few that I'd go back to even at half the price. Often the food is good but the overall experience is disappointing, prices are laughable, and you just have to shake your head.

                                      On the other hand some famous places deserve their reputation, and I would (and do) go back.

                                      Mostly though I eat quite well without ever entering the "parallel universe." I'm happy sampling a few interesting limited-edition sakes with a nice sashimi selection at a good izakaya rather than drinking one innocuous sake all night that's been chosen so that it doesn't draw attention away from the world-famous sushi. Traditional kaiseki is nice once every year or two, but I find that it can get boring quickly. So maybe I'm not the right person to ask.

                                  2. re: Gargle

                                    First of all I certainly would be very appriciative of tips to restaurants with great food at lower prices. It is a big difference between being prepared to splurge to eat at the top restaurants for the particular cuisine you want and not being open to suggestions to lower priced alternatives. I am certainly not in a position where I will only be going to places that are very expensive.

                                    I am looking for the restauants to include on my list and then eventually to dine at which will provide me with the best experiences according to my preferance with a price no object sticker attached. Price no object means that I don't mind if the price is high but it also means that the price can be as low as possible too. It does also mean that it is an experience I am looking for. An experience also includes ambience where a lively local atmosphere (which is more common in lower priced restauants) is preferable to a stuck up atmosphere of a typical three Michelin star restaurant in Paris. I prefer to be able to wear casual clothing over a suite and tie even though I will accept and wear whatever the restauant requires. An experience also includes drink (wine or sake) - both selection and pricing, interior design, view, level of service and knowledge of the service staff etc, etc. It is not just about price vs food. My impression is that a lot of reviews and opinions from foodies on blogs around the world only concerns themselves with food vs price.

                                    1. re: Gargle

                                      This is partly what I was alluding to earlier in suggesting that locals and travellers don't necessarily seek the same dining experiences. It's not that $100/person isn't a lot of money; it's that int'l travel is usually reserved for special ocassions - not something that's done every few months or even every other year for some. Geographically, Asia is a very long haul for anyone coming from North America. Flights are expensive, hotels are expensive - Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Unless you travel regularly for business or you're extremely well-off, Japan is not typically seen as a holiday destination the way that Europe, South America, or even Australia is. Summers are stifling hot and uncomfortable for most of us acclimated to milder temperatures, and it's rare that people have the time alloted to travel long distances for adequate stays (due to timezones and duration of travel, Japan is not accessible for 4-5 trips, which is how most Americans travel). As a result, you end up seeing lots of posts on this forum from honeymooners (such as myself), anniversaries, etc. These travelllers are not necessarily looking for yakitori spots, just as you likely wouldn't take your s.o. to an izakaya for a celebratory ocassion. Perhaps there's some sort of cultural divide in that regard, I don't know. My point is that people seek different types of experiences for different types of reason. Speaking for myself, Tokyo represents an enthralling juxtaposition between ancient time-honored customs and traditions, ardent futurism, and an almost religious infatuation of post-war Western culture. For someone who is spending a full 5 weeks crossing Honshu, most of that time alloted to rural townships and remote villages in the hillsides - the contrast between futuristic high-rise towers, neon lights, teeming multitudes, robust nightlife; and ancient tea houses, Buddhist temples of the Meiji era, Imperial palaces, etc. is fascinating. While in Tokyo, I am want to soak up all of that "big city" atmosphere, dining in the more refined upscale restaurants, because I know that I will spend the next 3 weeks (outside of Osaka and Nagasaki) in areas where I'll be eating strictly in izakaya, yakitori-ya, soba shops, etc. Tokyo admittedly represents a bit of excess and exorbitance for me. I think a lot of other Western visitors feel the same way. It's a city that's really unlike anything we have in North America; or Europe for that matter. It's vast and congested in comparisson to even the largest, most populated cities in the United States; it's expensive and over-the-top in many ways. I understand that as a person living in Tokyo or Japan, you might feel differently, but I'm just trying to offer a different cultural perspective. Believe it or not, this is all part of the allure of Tokyo for many Western travellers; it's specifically what they seek out. So the thought of spending JPY 20,000 per person on a meal at a tiny kappo counter or other unique settings with a personal itamae at your service for several hours, is not only accepted, but in many ways part of the fun... just as you might splurge on a birthday or anniversary meal now and again. I guess the difference is that I'm only doing it because I've given myself enough time (or as much time as I could reasonably take for my trip!) to experience a more diverse Japan. We're probably going a bit overkill on the kaiseki and omakase courses (partly due to all the ryokan stays!) but we also have plenty of izakaya, tempura, tofu, crab, unagi, tonkatsu, soba, ramen, donburi, honmachi, teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, kushiage, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, yakitori, bento, and many other meals planned inbetween the fancy stuff. I could understand however, why an American tourist with 5 days in Tokyo, would want to focus on the fancy high-end; especially on a first-trip and with so little English coverage on anything else. We're already eagerly planning a much more casual and downplayed return next spring (hopefully time for the cherry blossoms) with only one or two reservations at most. We plan to rent an apartment through AirBnB for a week and just discover places on our own; after having already experienced the "over-the-top" Tokyo of our honeymoon.

                                      Btw, I'm interested in the link to the yakitori-ya that you posted above and would like to hear more: could you please tell me about it?

                                      I think it's sort of the perfect example of what I've alluded to though; Western travellers are not necessarily seeking that kind of meal - the smae that you would typicaly be going out to with friends on a Thursday-Friday-Saturday evening. I don't think there's a right or wrong either, it's just about personal preference and motivation.

                                      Cheers

                                      1. re: OliverB

                                        Um, you know that Tokyo was completely leveled twice last century and even before that it was only founded a few hundred years ago? I'm not sure how much ancient anything you are going to discover. This is a lament among even Japanese historians. And the Meiji Era, late 1800's, was when Japan opened to the West. Not a lot of Buddhist temples went up. Anyway, I find Tokyo cheaper than NYC and I've lived in both for a decade. I showed a guest around Tokyo last year. Put him up in a nice 3-star hotel a block from a Yamanote station. Cost $78/night. Included breakfast. I don't know which big U.S. city you could get that kind of value. We ate extremely well too. His mind was certainly blown by the food.

                                        I'm sure Japan will be what you want it to be. Though maybe not necessarily what it is. Seems like this would be a good place to learn the later- as we have all hosted many excited travelers. People familiar with the city try to say there are many great places worth checking out. But anyway, it just seems hype overcomes all counsel.

                                        仕方が無い. 仕方が無い.

                                        1. re: Silverjay

                                          To clarify, I was referring to the contrast between Tokyo as a modern metropolis and the rest of Japan; specifically the more rural and off the beaten path locations of Honshu that we'll be visiting. I know all about the history of Tokyo and Japan.

                                        1. re: Gargle

                                          I don't think $200 is expensive either and even for just one person. That is what the price is for eating reasonably well locally where I come from and we are not talking about a splurge then. I would do that about two-three times a week on a regular basis here anyway.

                                          Having said that I would certainly not mind paying less.

                                          When on a vacation though, and especially on one of my bi-annual food trips to a well regarded gastronomic destination the goal is to experience the best I can find according to my preferences. That would normally not include any budget restrictions on the dining itself.

                                          So please understand that at least in my case (I mention this because my name came up), I am in Tokyo for one reason alone and that is to experience the best dining Tokyo has to offer. That is probably not the typical tourist in Tokyo. Most tourists are normally in Tokyo with a broader horizon. At the same time I probably spend a lot more time researching what restaurants to visit and I am certainly not stuck on Michelin.

                                          Like other type of tourists I am willing to pay for local help to experience the goals of my trip. Typical tourists seek council from tourist guides to make sure they experience all the sights and cultural aspects of Tokyo. I pay for food fixers, concierges and bespoke travel agents for tips on hidden gems to dine and to get access. I also value the recomendations of locals much higher than any book guide.

                                          So all in all I would not put myself in the same category as a typical tourist. Having said that there are quite a few others like me visiting Tokyo and to the locals we might be the most annoying because we seek to infiltrate your private secrets which you don't want to turn into a new Sushi Saito which is overrun and then not accessible to yourself anymore. I can certainly understand that, but it does not mean my kind of tourist will give up seeking your secrets anyway.

                                          In my particular case this time it is also health reasons in addition to values and priorities of what to do with the time I have left involved. So please also understand that the passion and feelings from my side for this trip is especially strong and borderline desperate. That might lead to situations of frustration on my part which might seem strange to you. I would like to appologize for this. However please also remember what I have written here and try to understand why I might be more hyped on this trip than for anything else I have done in my life. I certainly don't mean to behave like an a**h*** and once any of you finally meet me you will understand that the online impression you got of me is more a result of my desperation to acheive this goal than my real personality.

                                    2. re: Robb S

                                      To be fair, sushi is probably the most popular of Japanese food outside of Japan. It is almost a human nature/flaw to always ask what's the best kind of question. For me, the availablity of fresh fish/great rice is one of the biggest reasons I would have sushi in Japan.

                                      Lastly, I think social media/blogs/internet play a huge role in how people research on food in foreign places,just google "best sushi", it is inevitable sawada/saito would come up.

                                      That's why I love hearing from someone like Ninisix who can provide further insight into which sushi place to try.

                                      1. re: chri1720

                                        I just finished living in Tokyo and I'm very sad to be back in Chicago.

                                        This board used to be fantastic for recommendations, at least old threads, but there is now a general culture of animosity towards anyone new asking for help if they dare utter the name of a Michelin sushi restaurant.

                                        I'm not really sure what regulars here expect. As someone suggested above, if a non-Japanese speaking tourist googles for 'best sushi in Tokyo', the results they are most likely to find are Saito, Mizutani, Sawada and so on. I think if you fly half way round the world and have the money, it isn't unreasonable to want to try the best.

                                        Given most tourists don't realise how difficult it is to make reservations at places in Japan, they turn to seek assistance here but then get berated by regulars, who won't offer their supposedly better alternative places in fear that they too will become too popular. And certain quite frankly disgraceful reactions to this such as some -now deleted- replies by Roysen, to people not being prepared to reveal private places, sure as hell don't encourage people to share.

                                        Alternatively people here are in the business of 'food fixing', and want people to pay for their meals, so won't reveal names either. As I wrote previously on yet another deleted Roysen thread, I would be very surprised if chefs in Japan or anywhere for that matter really take that kindly to the concept.

                                        So this has resulted in a vicious circle where people search for the best, ask for how to book as they can't seem to, people then get told they are wasting their time trying as it isn't worth it but won't be told any equivalent or better alternatives, and then everyone gets annoyed with one another.

                                        The increase in the number of posts is not because this board is now full of 'black American Express' holders but surely down to the fact that the world economy is generally doing better and the yen weakening is making Japan more affordable.

                                        In any event what is 'best' is so subjective I don't know what people get so pent up about. I get the impression some people think that because something is hard to book, it must be great. That would probably make the three seat sushi restaurant in Shimbashi the best place in Tokyo seeing as the waiting list is now more than three years... and having been lucky enough to be invited there it wasn't all that great at least in my opinion.

                                        Rant over. Thank you to all the regulars who previously posted recommendations. They absolutely made my time in Tokyo far more interesting and fulfilling.

                                        1. re: terrych

                                          I would like to add that I agree that the posts you mention were disgraceful and they were also asked to be deleted to the moderators by myself. At the posting point I didin't realize how much the forum had changed since I wanted to orgganize the same trip a few years ago when everyone was all in helping modus. I really got frustrated by the attitude of that one poster and spoke my mind. That was in one thread to one poster. Later I have learned why things have changed and I now actually also have written that I understand why regulars will not share anymore.

                                          Other than that I think you might not be entierly on the spot on a couple of issues, but instead of arguing I will just keep my mind to myself. I have actually been treated quite disgracefully myself by people on this forum outside the forum.

                                          1. re: terrych

                                            This is your observation of the way things are, but doesn't really capture how things got this way. A few others and myself have been here since "Japan" was on an "International" board and hadn't even spun off yet. Things have changed A LOT. The demographic, the types of places being discussed, and the nature of the discussions have all changed. And I disagree that it is difficult to make reservations at places in Japan. It's difficult at maybe a handful of darlings that account for about .1% of the available options.

                                            1. re: Silverjay

                                              Those were the days. It would be nice if there is a replacement of the old board. It was about digging up gems and swapping tips since it was so difficult to navigate Tokyo and Japan in the pre Michelin and tabelog days. Nowadays, it is about how do I get a reservation for the following 20 restaurants that I absolutely must get into because I have money and this is a once in a lifetime trip.

                                              1. re: HKTraveler

                                                The interesting thing for me is why a particular set of restaurants out of thousands and thousands are the most appropriate for a "once in a lifetime trip". Of course this phenomenon is not limited to this board.

                                                1. re: tigerjohn

                                                  It is not a set of particular restaurants which is most appropriate. I am not sure I understand why some believe this. Of course some restaurants are more popular than others, but it has got to be that way everywhere - not just in Tokyo.

                                                  ...and if you are refering to me, I feel it a bit unfair to compare my situation with what you just described. I am actually counting the days I have left.

                                                  1. re: Roysen

                                                    I am not referring to anyone in particular with these comments.

                                                  2. re: tigerjohn

                                                    It is interesting. But I regularly use CH for research when I travel abroad and I haven't come across this phenomenon as acutely as here. I don't know if it is the cultural intimidation factor or what. There are so many great options for entire categories, sushi being a prime example, it seems so odd.

                                                    1. re: Silverjay

                                                      As someone who's been on CH from pretty much the beginning, this is the main factor that has discouraged me from posting my finds to this board since I moved to Japan. It seems to have been this way for a few years now.

                                                      1. re: E Eto

                                                        With all due respect to everyone above, I have a small handfull of "popular" restaurants listed in context to the 5-weeks of travel I'll be doing throughout the country. I have an extensive list of restaurants throughout Nagano, Nara, Osaka, Matsue, and Nagasaki (nevermind the dozens of 'lunch spots' in Tokyo which don't require reservations and I haven't bothered to mention) which I haven't posted about because I've done my research and I'm confident in my choices. Tokyo is a different world. It's a tremendously competetive dining scene and there happen to be a handful of popular restaurants not unlike any other city, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. which people (both local and tourists) are trying to get into. Unlike all other cities however, it's unusually difficult to obtain reservations without considerable planning and strategy. As someone else suggested earlier in this thread, that's a foreign concept for many Western travellers. What I don't understand however, is the "double edged sword" mentatlity that so many of you possess in feeling frustrated at the lack of diversity and discussion of restaurants outside of the popular Michelin circle, yet your concerns over divulging restaurants which you would seemingly approve of and offer a more varied discussion on this board and a broader experience for travellers. That seems very strange to me. Perhaps I'm in the minority as I'm not a blogger and I prefer to live in the moment rather than taking pictures of every piece of food that I ingest. I can't imagine how my posessing greater knowledge or stronger focus towards Tokyo's "authentic" dining culture as seen through the eyes of locals, would somehow ruin the experience for everyone else and spoil all of your favorite restaurants. Rarely if ever does a neighborhood restaurant become a trendy "hot spot" because it's been spotlighted on Chowhound. More often than not in fact, local gems have been "outed" for months if not years, before some food critic/reviewer writes it up and the crowds follow. I'm sure the food at Ichikawa for instance, is as consistent now as ever, yet it's surely the Michelin ranking that "affirms" this to the masses. Just as someone like Bourdain might shoot a television episode in Osaka and then every last foreign tourist visiting the city has Kuro-chan on their lists. There's nothing wrong with this of course, and I'm sure the restaurants are appreciative. It's almost always a prominent food publication, television spotlight, or something to that effect which opens the floodgates... but tipping people off on Chowhound to good/authentic/local food (the very purpose this board was meant serve) seems very paranoid and unusual to me. I can't help but feel there are ulterior motives at play; especially after learning that people apparently have less of an issue revealing their favorite spots when they're paid to do so or treated to a complimentary meal. That just seems so very backwards. Anyhow, I can't really complain as people have been very helpful to me in other threads and provided me with lots of great information which I'm extremely thankful for. The fact that my initial post in this thread has turned into what it has is just absurd though. I'd initially inquired about 5 or so popular restaurants with over 40 days in your country. It seems to me that those who are fed up with the places mentioned would have done better to simply ignore the topic and not respond. The mere mention of Saito seems to instill strong feelings in some people on this board. I can't think of a better endorsement! :)

                                                        1. re: OliverB

                                                          Whatever you think is going on here on these boards, you seem to have it all wrong. The reason *I* stopped posting on this board is because I feel like I'm simply being a concierge. I've posted about different finds in the past, and yes, I know people have been reading them since I get random contacts from people passing through Hiroshima, but for the most part, the Japan board is mostly tourists, expats and others passing through with their Michelin or Tabelog top 10 in their hands without as much leaving a word or two. I'm looking forward to all your reports. In fact, before writing about the places you've secured your reservations, let us know about your lunches or random places you find in Nagano, Nara, Osaka, Matsue, and Nagasaki. When visitors share their tips, I feel more inclined to share mine too. The operative word is *share*. If all people want to talk about are getting into the handful of elite restaurants in Tokyo, well, it's a bit tiresome.
                                                          I can't wait to read the reports from Roysen an well.

                                                          1. re: E Eto

                                                            I will certainly be in sharing modus of my knowledge constantly. I would think that is the least I can do for the help I have received. As I have also written before I am ready to share everything I know of Oslo, Paris, Barcelona and Sao Paulo too. They have been my favourite destinations for dining vacations in the past.

                                                            1. re: E Eto

                                                              I'm looking forward to posting exhaustive reviews of the entire trip when I return in December! :)

                                                            2. re: OliverB

                                                              Relax, the rant is not directed at you but rather the general state of the board. Tokyo has plenty of good food. Even if one of those reservations don't come through, am sure there are others that can easily replace it

                                                              1. re: OliverB

                                                                The big difference, and the key thing that is driving your perspective vs. the perspective of some others, is that Tokyo and NYC are not similar in the way you seem to want to indicate. In both cities, there are a group of restaurants for which those who live outside the city want to get into. There is also the list of restaurants that those who live in the city want to get into. These lists are not as similar for Tokyo, as compared to other cities.

                                                                The view from the resident's standpoint is that A) the food tourist's list is a tiny tiny fraction of "sought after tables" in Tokyo and B) as competitive as the market is for "sought after tables" from the resident's point of view, the ones not on food tourists' list are not that difficult to book, as many have pointed out (Saito a few years ago) but if they were to somehow get on that list, then they would become difficult to book. Almost all of the restaurants on the food tourists' list were not hard to book before food tourists discovered them. As you note, there is probably not that much difference in quality from before and after food tourist discovery.

                                                                This sets up a situation where residents view the quest to get into "hard to book" places known by food tourists as strange when you could book an equally good place very easily, or more easily, and a reluctance to talk too much about a restaurant which will then get "discovered" by food tourists and the become hard to book.

                                                                I feel like in SF, NYC, for example, locals and food tourists lists are more similar, largely due to the more english language information that exists.

                                                                Moreover you contention that restaurants would appreciate getting recognized in the Michelin Guide is certainly not true, as many restaurants refused or have flat out stated they don't want that recognition. A number of places I have been to have expressed this. Part of it is the perceived disruption of additional foreigners with less experience in Japanese dining culture (e.g. requests to change course or ingredients, demanding food be cooked in certain ways), lack of communication with foreign diners (key in Japanese dining culture), and having to deal with constant requests for reservations.

                                                                1. re: tigerjohn

                                                                  I think you describe the situation very well. This is also my understanding.

                                                                  Having said that however I do not understand why natives on a small forum like chowhound would worry that information getting out here would lead to restaurants on their list becoming hard to book. Films like "Jiro dreams of sushi", Obama visits and suddenly rise from zero to three Michelin stars however would be something to fear.

                                                                  Having dealt quite a bit with Japanese culture and business in my professional life I also know that there is another side to this. Japanese people like exclusivety. For instance some businesses will not export because then they will loose their best Japanese customers since the products then will not be sold exclusively to Japan. Similarily Japanese peole want special versions of imported products manufacturerd outside Japan to be available only to Japanese people. Otherwise they will not buy. So I do believe that part of the issue is also related to this Japanese need for exclusivity. I am not implying that this somehow is wrong or negative. Foreigners visiting from abroad need to adjust to the culture they are visiting. So it is a factor we need to accept. I do however think we have to include this aspect as a factor why these two lists are not similar.

                                                                  1. re: Roysen

                                                                    I doubt very much Sushi Sho wanted to stay off michelin because it's "exclusive" (and little help did it do them in terms of fending off tourists...)

                                                                    To add to tj's points - I think other than the extreme tendency of tourists (esp. from the US) to try and impose all kinds of random seeming restrictions on the restaurant and their inability to communicate, there are various fears - many of them, but not all of them based on stereotype for lack of any other information. These may be that foreigners will speak loudly, do all kinds of impolite deeds, not drink in a place that makes most of its money on drinks and lives off everyone being drunk enough to be really friendly, etc. It doesn't matter that drunk Japanese (and even more so, drunk rich Japansese) can be as obnoxious as the best of us - the fear is there. So it's not just exclusivity as you describe (there are certainly places like that, many of them), but also the idea that by having a very predictably behaved set of diners, you can achieve a much more efficient, pleasant, and high functioning dining environment.

                                                                    1. re: Gargle

                                                                      I can't comment in an accurate way on singular instances. It was not my intention to try to explain anything with one specific reason. I just think it is a factor to be recognized.

                                                                      1. re: Roysen

                                                                        True. But the Sushi Sho family by now has... who knows how many shops, and many of them are like that.

                                                                        One more point - that many of these restaurants are tiny means more than just that it's hard to get in. Rather it means there's almost no staff overturn (or almost no staff), that the regulars' preferences are well known, and that the restaurant (if it's very good about managing its book) can even make sure to create a good mix of diners on a given night based on what it knows.

                                                                      2. re: Gargle

                                                                        What I meant was that the Japanese diners don't have for instance Sushi Saito on their list as one of the most sought after reservtions anymore because it is popular among tourists and featured in the Michelin guide. So it is not exclusive to the Japanese people anymore.

                                                                        1. re: Roysen

                                                                          No, it's that there was a certain balance of effort, price, atmosphere and quality that worked, and perhaps it (1) no longer works and (2) you don't see it on any lists because it's on the lists of all its regulars and therefore irrelevant to the rest of us.

                                                                          1. re: Gargle

                                                                            Gargle, I am talking about the Japanese people's list of most desirable restaurants which is different to the tourists most desirable list and why.

                                                                            Maybe I misunderstood your point here?

                                                                    2. re: tigerjohn

                                                                      Probably have to disagree with tigerjohn's statement "the one not on food tourists list are not that difficult to book". A few of the most difficult booking that I have encountered have not even appeared on Chowhound yet, or in Michelin Guide.
                                                                      Saitou has always been difficult to book, even back 5 years ago, or even back pre-Michelin era. But at least if you tried on the first day of the 2 months advanced booking date, you would likely get it. This, of course, is not true anymore since the regulars, knowing the increasing difficulty, would just book the next date after they finished the meals, reducing the slots for others.

                                                                      1. re: tigerjohn

                                                                        It's just silly to see people stressing their ass off over categorical restaurants like sushi and tempura, etc. where there are many options serving the same food and experience. Yet they feel pathologically compelled to zero in on a few darlings because of hype. These categorical places are not wholly unique experiences like say, dining at the French Laundry or Per Se or some such place. It's another mis-read of the Tokyo dining landscape.

                                                                        1. re: Silverjay

                                                                          Is it not odd that you consider TFL or Per Se a 'unique experience' when they are both Modern French and in fact share some of the same dishes? There are plenty of similar high-end Modern French restaurants in the Bay Area and New York but as many have deemed them 'the best', locals and tourists do their best to try and go there.

                                                                          Obviously there is a plethora of sushi restaurants to choose from in Tokyo and Japan. The reason that certain restaurants are singled out by tourists are because they receive the most English language coverage. How else would they decide on them? And as I have mentioned before, what other information are they expected to use if it is their first trip to Japan?

                                                                          If you look at both lists of restaurants (OliverB and Roysen) they are generally what you would expect from someone who has researched 'best restaurants' in each category in English.

                                                                          For instance, this explains Roysen's slightly peculiar choice to choose Kanemasu and Mille Carresses as his 'spots' to hang out in. The latter is a particularly odd choice given no English is spoken, is much more of a quiet 'date' venue than somewhere you would decide to hang out in to meet people but has been clearly based and influenced by a single English blog post.

                                                                          The wife of a colleague of mine goes at least two or three times a month to Saito and I asked her earlier how many foreigners she has come across. According to her in the last few years, she has only ever come across three parties of tourists. There are obviously more who manage to make reservations but I think the vast majority of his patrons are locals? So there must be some demand to go to the restaurant from locals rather than those rather crudely labelled as food tourists?

                                                                          1. re: terrych

                                                                            The menus at sushi and tempura restaurants never change. The particular lineup might vary, but they still more or less serve same food at every meal. Just like all the other places in those categories. Modern French is a broad, interpretative cuisine. Hardly the culinary pigeonhole of sushi and tempura.

                                                                            Yeah, I think we are aware of how English coverage steers diners to the same places. Then folks come on to the forum and cling to it as gospel and then nickel and dime the perceived marginal difference in quality they might be missing out on purely based on hype, internet, Michelin, TL, one blogger or poster's opinion, etc. Then they complain about not getting a reservations.

                                                                            Seems worth pointing out this phenomenon after many years when it wasn't so like this.

                                                                            1. re: Silverjay

                                                                              This thread has been a fascinating read, but is it really a phenomenon or just the coincidence of 2 extreme tourists being very prominent posters on this board at the same time ?

                                                                              IRL I send first-timer friends, family and co-workers to my regular sushi/ kappo places reasonably often and the ones clutching their copy of the Michelin list invariably report back happy and grateful to have eaten well at alternative destinations without encountering the insanity over reservations which they've heard or read about.

                                                                              1. re: shakti2

                                                                                There should not be any problems since both our plans are a once in a lifetime experience. I really don't understand why that should provoke anyone or even be seen as problematic. What kind of impact can two individual souls have on the gigantic dining scene of Tokyo?

                                                                                1. re: Roysen

                                                                                  No one begrudges either you or OliverB and your plans to eat your way through Japan, but call it bad timing, or the straw that broke the camel's back. This pattern of postings has been going on for a while and it's obviously a source of frustration for many of us, as you can tell.
                                                                                  So let me ask you this. Are you interested in the local cuisines of the places you're intending to travel? Like monjayaki in Tokyo, or obanzai ryori in Kyoto, or takoyaki in Osaka, or soup curry in Hokkaido, or any number of dishes that are loved locally and indicative of eating in Japan? The stuff known as "kyodo ryori". I can't tell if you've done any research about that stuff. Or are you relying on your fixers for that stuff?

                                                                                  1. re: E Eto

                                                                                    Please understand the background for my trip. I have always loved sushi and raw fish. In Oslo I am the most visiting guest at all the top 5 sushi restaurant. As you probably know the quality of raw fish is not the best here in Scandinavia. I am a gourmet traveller from many years around Europe and I always make a priority to visit the best Japanese restaurants and sushi restaurants wherever I go. The best I have tried so far is Kinoshita and Jun Sakamoto in Sao Paulo as well as Koy Shunka and Pakta in Barcelona.

                                                                                    My ignorance did not at first think that sushi in Japan could be that much better until I read a travel article in the local newspaper from Kyubey back in 2000.

                                                                                    Since then it has been a dream of mine to go to Tokyo to dine at the best sushi restaurants.

                                                                                    In 2012 I set out to make the dream a reality. I had used the net extensively to set up a list of restaurants I wanted to visit. At the time I actually didn't know about a Tokyo Michelin guide. I used this board and tabelog to find the restaurants I wanted to visit and the knowledge I gained made the list reach outside sushi and sashimi even though those still had first priority.

                                                                                    The big problem back then was language and how to arrange the reservation. Then my research stumbled on the concept of the fixers. I can in touch with one and hired him. He extended my list even further still. The priority was always to experience the best Tokyo has to offer.

                                                                                    Then I came down to earth again when I was diagnosed with cancer and had to cancel the whole trip.

                                                                                    Since then I have been in constant treatment trying to get well again. Now the doctors have given up to make me well again and tell me I need to do the best with the time I have left. My big dream is still the Tokyo restaurant list, but now it is extended to all of Japan and not just Tokyo. So this trip and the list is what I have planned to make a priority of doing with the time I have left.

                                                                                    There has been invested an enormous amount of time in researching what restaurants should be on the list. I have studied both Japanese and English websites and blogs in detail.

                                                                                    Set against this background I assume you understand that it is the individual experiences inside the restaurants I am looking for. I also assume you understand that cultural background, what is considered real local cuisine, what others might think of my choices etc are totally irrelevant to me. I am only looking for the best experiences according to my own preferences. That is also what the restaurant list reflects. If you take a closer look at it you will also see that much of the list is based on information I only could have found on Japanese language webpages.

                                                                                    1. re: Roysen

                                                                                      Roysen, I'm so sorry to hear about your health condition. But be rest assured - you *will* have a grand time eating out in Japan, with or without detailed advance planning.

                                                                                    2. re: E Eto

                                                                                      Why should it be anyones source of frustration where I should decide to dine. I really don't understand this and if anything is "silly" as was expressed by Silverjay I surely must be that attutude.

                                                                                2. re: Silverjay

                                                                                  Silverjay: having identified the problem, what would you suggest as a solution to this phenomenon?

                                                                                    1. re: terrych

                                                                                      So you think "a problem" has been "identified"? What exactly is the problem?

                                                                                  1. re: terrych

                                                                                    Actually your attempt to describe my desire for Yamashita, Mille Carresses and Kanemasu isn't correct. You will not find anywhere written in English where they are described as best. If you take a look at my list carefully you will also find it much more influenced by Tabelog than Michelin. So please, if you are going to identify anything/anyone as a problem you should be more concerned about being correct. I also have a problem understanding why it has become an issue what taste the two of us have in choice of restaurants on our lists given that our background for going to Japan is so unique that it will most likely never happen again.

                                                                                    1. re: Roysen

                                                                                      Roysen: no offence was intended but given your somewhat aggressive tone, perhaps you can explain how you decided on a wine bar to spend your time on in Osaka?

                                                                                      Mille Carresses is not in Michelin so I know you did not find it there but how did Tabelog lead you to that specific choice given that there are higher rated bars in roughly the same area on Tabelog.

                                                                                      You yourself cited on your very own Osaka thread that you had found Tomostyle's blog where he/she had written about the 'best' dishes they had in 2013.

                                                                                      After stating that you had not been there you wrote 'What is recomended at Mille Carresses is Roased Abalone with liver and the Waguy Katsu sandwich.'

                                                                                      The steak sando might be the signature dish but the abalone is a seasonal item so how did you conclude it was recommended? I see nothing that references that on Tabelog or a quick google search in Japanese.

                                                                                      The only way you must have concluded this is from Tomostyle's blog as she recommended it. This is the 'searching for the best in English' effect.

                                                                                      The choice was particularly curious as it is not really so much a place for 'snacking' given that people would usually go there for a meal.

                                                                                      It is quite formal and not really a place someone can just rock up to in the late evenings to join you as you suggested. You are most likely to find couples on dates, either real or with hostesses from the local surroundings... or perhaps a fixer in your case.

                                                                                      I don't want to start another slanging match but your bitter replies are what caused a whole spate of threads to be deleted.

                                                                                      1. re: terrych

                                                                                        Roysen: you may have posted and it was deleted but it would be interesting to understand how you concluded Mille Carresses was where you wanted to go. I stand by my analysis above but am happy to be corrected.

                                                                                        1. re: terrych

                                                                                          I see no reason to continue this, terrych. Do you?

                                                                                          Mille Carresses was recomended to me by a local when I had explained what I was looking for. Almost every restaurant on my list needs to be verified by locals I am in touch with outside chowhound before it will be entered to the list. I never wrote that Tabelog lead me to it, but you will not find anything in URL the links I provided which indicates that it is somehow "best" at anything. They have a great wine list which can be seen on their website and they have a few dishes that seems like very tasty snacks. The pictures also reveal an interior design and environment appealing to me. Is that somehow provocing to others, then so be it. I can't understand why and see no real reason why I should take that into consideration.

                                                                                          1. re: Roysen

                                                                                            I forgot to mention that I have been told by this local that Mille Carresses is the perfect place for snacking and wine/sake. I trust him a lot more than someone here who obviously don't want me to find the good restaurants.

                                                                                            So that is my last post here. Thanks for the help of those who sincerely wanted to help and good luck to those who want to stick around and try to make this a good forum. If things change I might come back with reports from my trip.

                                                                                            1. re: Roysen

                                                                                              Roysen: I really don't understand your reaction(s) to my query. I think you might be confusing me with another poster. My intention was solely to establish how someone chooses restaurants before asking about them here. This has broadly speaking become the purpose of this thread.

                                                                                              I have been to Mille Carresses, I think it's a perfectly nice place, but I honestly do not think they will take well to someone treating it as a 'snacking' venue. The dishes there are not 'snacks'. I think they'd find that suggestion quite insulting. But you can certainly choose to ignore this as is your prerogative.

                                                                                              I absolutely don't understand when you say I am 'someone here who obviously don't want me to find the good restaurants'. As I posted previously I found this board to be of great use. I am not stopping you - nor can I stop you - from going to Mille Carresses, I just don't think it is quite what you are after.

                                                                                              If your fixer really has suggested it then fine but it remains a bizarre suggestion given the plethora of places in Osaka. Must be some fixer who suggests going to a wine bar to drink sake?

                                                                                              It also doesn't add up when you look at your previous posts about how you came to choose it. Let's take a look at what you initially wrote:

                                                                                              'If you take a look at my list carefully you will also find it much more influenced by Tabelog than Michelin': this would suggest Tabelog was the defining factor in your decision. You made no mention of locals or your mystery fixers.

                                                                                              'but you will not find anything in URL the links I provided which indicates that it is somehow "best" at anything.': ok, the post you linked to does not use the word 'best'. However, it is clear the writer is setting out what he/she thought were their 'best' dining experiences by using the terms 'sensational dishes' / 'gastronomic highlights'. But this is just semantics.

                                                                                              None of what you have written explains how you came to conclude the abalone dish was 'recommended' as there is no other source that seems to say this other than the blog you cited.

                                                                                              Ultimately there is clearly no point in engaging with you as all that happens is you get unnecessarily aggressive. Although I don't in any way support some of the reactions to you here, you change your story so much I can sympathize with why people don't find you at all credible.

                                                                                              1. re: terrych

                                                                                                I am sorry terrych! I appologize. I mistook some of the posts made by others as coming from you. Please forgive my reactions. They were not meant for you.

                                                                                                In terms of Mille Carresses, they are listed as a wine bar on tabelog. Because of that I assume they will be used to people coming with a priority to drink wine with some food to go along with the wine. I would never tell anyone inside what I call my snack places that I consider it as a snack place. I would rather complementing them on their wine list, prepare ahead what wines I would like to order and tell them I came primarily because they have these great wines on their list.

                                                                                                1. re: Roysen

                                                                                                  Ah, that explains it. In Japan there are basically two kinds of places that call themselves 'wine bars.' One is the type you're familiar with, where they serve several wines by the glass and snacks to go with them, with a casual atmosphere. These weren't very common as recently as a decade ago, but they're getting more and more popular.

                                                                                                  The other type of 'wine bar' is restaurants that particularly want to emphasize their wine list. Often they design the food menu to go with the wine rather than the other way around. These are basically full-blown restaurants, though, where you're expected to order a full meal and a bottle or two of nice wine.

                                                                                                  1. re: Robb S

                                                                                                    Thanks for that info, Robb! Before terrych entered the scene with his info I was told Mille Carresses belongs into the first category you mention. "Perfect place for snacking" were the actual phrasing from the local contact. That is why I hesitated to the info from terrych. If you take a look at the menu of Mille Carresses they do serve a la carte and that menu is quite short.

                                                                                                    1. re: Roysen

                                                                                                      Well OK, I don't know anything about the shop in question, just pointing out that "wine bar" doesn't always mean the same thing in Japan. I guess you'll find out when you get there....

                                                                                                      1. re: Robb S

                                                                                                        MC falls into the second of Robb S categories. From what I recall both the food and wine menu was more extensive than on the website, there were daily specials and there was also a recommended food course menu. The other clientele there that evening were three couples on dates and an old salaryman flanked by two hostesses.

                                                                                                        I once went to a place in Tokyo to what I thought looked like a casual wine bar only to find the staff slightly bemused - or offended - that I was the only one not ordering a full dinner. In fact the chef had previously worked at Ledoyen. Unfortunately I can't remember the name although it was near Shirokane Takanawa station. I used the 'gaijin discount' to get out of the awkwardness and marginally redeemed myself by having some dessert.

                                                                                                        Roysen: I am not sure how anyone could go there and reasonably conclude it was in the first of the Robb S categories and I absolutely cannot comprehend how a local fixer would say that. I remain unconvinced your choice was guided by anything other than the Tomostyle's blog but hey ho.

                                                                                                        To be absolutely clear and for the avoidance of any doubt there is nothing wrong with MC apart from the fact it does not seem suitable to your needs and I am not stopping you from going there.

                                                                                                        Robb S: as you say, Roysen will find out when he gets there...

                                                                                                        1. re: terrych

                                                                                                          Thanks Terrych. That is very valuable information. I will need to do more research on MC before deciding what to do.

                                                                                                          If you look into my posts you will find that I have raised the very question you, Robb and I are now discussing from the vety start that I presented my itinerary for my trip.. The question was if MC is a drop in place for a late evening snack? So I certainly wanted to make sure before putting it into my plan. I stopped persuing the answer to that question when my fixer told me word for word what I now have quoted on this thread. That is the truth. He had recomended MC before that as a regular restaurant to visit, but came up with the quote when I asked if any of his suggestions would suite my need for that late evening drop in snack.

                                                                                                          That you don't believe me really is not something I can't do anything about. It is also really more your problem than mine since I know it is truth.

                                                                                                          Having said that my fixer also wrote that Yamashita also would fall into a late evening drop in snack place contrary to what members here are writing.

                                                                                                          1. re: terrych

                                                                                                            My fixer has called Mille Carresses now and they have confirmed it is no problem to go there to mainly enjoy their wine and choose snacks from their a la carte menu to go with the wine.

                                                                                                            After reading the menu, listening to recomendations and reading about visits from others on the internet this is what I would like to try from their menu:

                                                                                                            Katsusando Waguy sandwich, the Abalone in its liver sauce, Uni tofu, Porcini and foie gras, Pigeon with truffle and the charcuterie platter including Jamon Bellota and cured horsemeat. I might also take a look at their cheese platter.

                                                                                                    2. re: terrych

                                                                                                      Back to Mille Carresses and how I came to choose it.

                                                                                                      My fixer has not recomended Mille Carresses for its sake selection, but the snacking places we are going to sample are all selected with a requisite that they have eiter a great sake selection or a great wine selection. Mille Carresses do have a great wine selection. This was something I found on their website and which my local fixer also told me.

                                                                                                      The quote you made of my remark about the list mainly being chosen based on tabelog is correct, but that doesn't mean that all the restaurants I have chosen are based on tabelog. In fact most snack places have not been selected based on tabelog. It is the lunch and dinner restaurants on the list which are mostly based on tabelog. Mille Carresses was as I have written chosen based on a tip from my local fixer. Of course after he had tipped me about it I did a search on internet to find it and all I could find about it I have read including the links to the blog you mention and which I linked to in the OP of my Osaka thread. This does however not mean that it had a major influence on my decision.

                                                                                                      The abalone dish was recomended to me by my fixer. That is the reason why I also recomended it. I can add that in addition to the Abalone dish and the Waguy sandwich he also recomended the uni tofu, the porcini with foie gras and the pigeon with truffles to possibly appeal to my taste. He also recomended the charcuterie plate with Iberico Jamon Bellota ham and horse meat seashimi as well as the cheese platters and the oysters.

                                                                                        2. re: tigerjohn

                                                                                          I completely understand and appreciate all of your points and I'm essentially in agreement with you. I certainly recognize the limited capacity of many restaurants in Japan and the importance of rapport and conversational etiquette between chef and patron that's inherent to Japanese restaurant culture. I'm not sure whether the latter can be attributed to the prevalence of intimate kappo style dining spaces or if form follows function in this case; eitherway they're interwoven facets of Japan's food culture and present themselves as a social barrier for Western travellers. Furthermore, with one glaring exception which I'll get to in a moment - any comparative links to cities like NYC or LA were made with the purpose of supporting your argument; that Tokyo is an entirely unique city with uncommon conventions due to the nature of all that's been highlighted above. This is indeed foreign and unusual for most Americans and it translates to many of us, as somewhat elitist, exclusive, and inaccessible; regardless of whether that's true of the greater Tokyo dining scene. My main point of contention however, is Chowhound's role in all of this. I simply don't put as much weight behind these forums as others seem to. Perhaps I'm being naive, but I've always considered the demographic of food-oriented community forums to serve a niche interest and I don't really believe that any information conveyed through these channels has any broad impact or influence on the recognition or popularity of restaurants, outside of a select discerning few. I would argue that it's probably a bit of a stretch to assume that a very good restaurant catering primarily to locals which currently flies under-the-radar, is in any danger of becoming a fashionable dining spot with demand overwhelming interest and becoming restrictive to regulars, just because it's name-dropped on Chowhound. I think that some of you may be granting too much influence to these little boards. Then again, I may just be naive.

                                                                                          1. re: OliverB

                                                                                            I don't think anyone here is attributing all this to Chowhound's influence. But these boards just reinforce the idea that the handful of darling restaurants in the English media are the "it" places that moneyed visitors must visit to enjoy the "best of the best". It's kind of shortsighted, and while there is good quality to be had at each of these places, I just wonder where the visitors are that look for any of the great regional cuisines that can be found all over Japan. You know, like the stuff that local artisans, growers, fishermen, farmers, etc., have been enjoying historically. It would be refreshing to have discussions about that stuff.

                                                                                            1. re: E Eto

                                                                                              I've actually been meaning to start a thread on regional restaurants the past few days, but just haven't gotten around to it. Will do so soon though....

                                                                                              1. re: Robb S

                                                                                                I think that would be an excellent idea.

                                                                                              2. re: E Eto

                                                                                                I've asked before and I would still love to receive some examples! Since you feel it would be refreshing to discuss, I'd very much appreciate it if you would offer suggestions.

                                                                                                I think many visitors to the forum and to Japan tend to focus on Tokyo alone. I've explained how I interpret the mentality of many of these visitors in an earlier post above, and why their focus likely wouldn't be on growers, fishermen, farmers, etc. That's not really my focus for Tokyo either, though I would love to be able to read about what I may potentially be missing, as it might influence my decision and entire trip in the end. I certainly am interested in hearing about regional cuisines outside of Tokyo. I'll be spending time in Hakone, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu, Ishikawa, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Matsue, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. I think I have a fairly good read on most of these regions (the ayu in Gunma/Gifu; kakinohasushi and oyaki in Nagano-I'd actually love a recommendation for this; oysters from the Noto Peninsula and narezushi in Ishikawa; okonomiyaki & takoyaki in Osaka; chagayu & kasuzuke in Nara; shijimi clams and 'seven delicacies' of Matsue; toruko, Chinese {tompourou, buta kakuni, etc} plus regional champon, sara-udon & kissaten in Nagasaki; etc) but I would always welcome personal suggestions from local Chowhounders.

                                                                                              3. re: OliverB

                                                                                                First of all, I don't think there's any widespread reluctance among Chowhounders to share recommendations for restaurants that they like - that's not really what's going on here, in spite of a very few exceptions. ISTR that there are plenty of recent threads talking about high-end sushi restaurants in Tokyo, so there are plenty of recommendations just waiting for you, but your attitude seems to be: "The mere mention of Saito seems to instill strong feelings in some people on this board. I can't think of a better endorsement!"

                                                                                                People on this board are generally pretty helpful, but if you mention "extreme disappointment" in not getting into one particularly overhyped and overcrowded spot, don't take it the wrong way if people try to steer you towards a different way of thinking.

                                                                                                1. re: Robb S

                                                                                                  Folks, we've removed some more posts here since things are getting awfully personal, and we'd really ask that people focus on discussing restaurants, rather than discussing how people discuss restaurants. Thanks.

                                                                                                  1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                                    Once again, this discussion seems to be taking a pretty negative turn, and we've removed some posts. We'd like to ask everyone to get back to discussing restaurants and chow, and move away from focusing on how people are discussing the local restaurant scene.

                                                                                          2. re: E Eto

                                                                                            Would appreciate it if you post more yoshoku and B-Kyu gurume places.

                                                                        2. Of the places you mention that are in Tokyo:

                                                                          - RyuGin - shouldn't be too hard to book. Has its good days and bad days, probably best as your first meal as it'll put many things in perspective without being too demanding service-style-wise. You can call them yourself as they speak English.

                                                                          - Sushi Sawada - hard but not impossible. Fortunately if you can't get in there are dozens of other sushi places mentioned on this board, tabelog, etc. where you'll have a blast.

                                                                          - Ginza Okuda - Please do not go here. It is not a good restaurant. If you feel the need to try Okuda's cuisine go to Koju. You can call yourself as they speak English, but then they'll try to get you to go to Okuda :)

                                                                          - 7chome Kyoboshi - I don't know how hard, probably not a problem.

                                                                          - Kagurazaka Ishikawa - it's been getting harder and harder - I usually book for the next month when we're there and it's really shifted from nearly any day being available for the second seating to only a handful. Still, because they do two to three seatings you should be able to get in. You can also call yourself as they speak English.

                                                                          - Sushi Yoshitake - I don't know how hard, probably not a problem.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Gargle

                                                                            Thanks for answering my question Gargle; you've been really helpful!

                                                                            What don't you like about Okuda? (it sounds like the answer is 'everything!')

                                                                            I'm definitely not married to that reservation... I'd love to hear your reasoning though.

                                                                            Thanks again!

                                                                            1. re: OliverB

                                                                              There was no atmosphere or decor to speak of (including the lack of Okuda's 16 ton personality), the cooking had inaccuracies that I'm willing to forgive in a fairly priced mom & pop shop but not at an Okuda priced place, and that would never happen at Yukimura, Ishikawa, etc.. I've seen that the mothership has also been getting some bad reviews recently but I don't know how much weight to assign to them - perhaps with his many projects in Japan and elsewhere he's stretched a bit thin.

                                                                          2. OliverB, that seems to be the consensus for Tokyo, they usually do 1 month earlier openings, least that's what my concierge and also other reports suggest.

                                                                            However, like Saito, some Japanese restaurants also tend to have a policy of allowing their regulars to be in advance of the calender.

                                                                            For Sawada, my concierge tells me it's not that hard to book. Her advice is that try to have a range of dates for them if this is the restaurant that you must dine in.

                                                                            In fact, she is of the opinion that Sawada is easier than Yoshitake/Jiro (original shop).

                                                                            Ishikawa, their website suggest they take english reservation after 3pm, so perhaps try it out?

                                                                            http://www.kagurazaka-ishikawa.co.jp/...

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: chri1720

                                                                              Thanks so much; I appreciate it!!

                                                                            2. OliverB,

                                                                              I notice you did a trip to Osaka not long ago and were looking for info on Momen on this forum.

                                                                              Did you ever go to Momen? If so how was it?

                                                                              31 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Roysen

                                                                                Hi Roysen,

                                                                                I actually haven't done that trip yet... it's all part of the upcoming 5-week excursion that I'm taking with my wife in late-October. We'll be in Tokyo, Hakone, Gunma, all over Nagano and Gifu, Ishikawa/Kanazawa, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Matsue, Hiroshima/Miyajima, Nagano, and Tokyo again.

                                                                                Momen is the one restaurant in Osaka that I was unable to book. We only had one free evening (Fri, Nov. 21) and it's already fully booked for that night. I didn't want to start shifting things around and complicating/compromising our plans, so we've scratched it off the list and will save it for a future return trip. I'm not too disappointed as we're doing Kahala the following night which looks similar in many ways. We are purposefully not doing a lot of high-end dining in Osaka as it doesn't seem like that scene best reflects the food culture of the city and there are many fun and more interesting options for yakitori-kushiage-sukiyaki-takoyaki-okonomiyaki-gyoza-udon-etc. I had considered both Geppa and Hajime Yoneda for one of our meals (in addition to Momen) but my wife and I both decided that we're taking a break from the fancy meals for Osaka. The only other high-end we're looking to book in the city is Fujiya 1935 and they are not yet taking reservations for our dates.

                                                                                Sorry to hear about your health btw; I hope that your upcoming trip is memorable and wish you the best.

                                                                                1. re: OliverB

                                                                                  Thanks for that info! I hoped I could inquire a little bit about Momen and Geppa! Why did you originally want to dine there and where did you find information about those places? I haven't been able to find any info at all. In fact I have put Momen on my list based on your intense search for info on the place. So I hoped I could ask what you found?

                                                                                  1. re: Roysen

                                                                                    I don't recall entirely, but I think I was just searching around for "the best" kappo style high-end dining experiences in Osaka and came upon many blogs highlighting Momen in particular. This entry was persuasive, and this particular blogger also seems to share an interest in many of the same types of restaurants as us (and as I've apparently learned, many foreign travellers without spending restrictions, according to the locals on this board!): http://chubbyhubby.net/travel/osaka-p...

                                                                                    I wish I could offer more details. If given the chance, I would eagerly chose to dine there. According to this blog however, it's not an easy reservation to book:

                                                                                    http://www.photoblog.com/peechan99/20...

                                                                                    This person not only seems to have run into the same road block as I did with my attempt to secure a reservation, but he/she goes on to suggest that the entire restaurant had been booked an entire 6-months in advance! I'm guessing due to the fact that there is very little English spoken, this is probably a popular high-end local kappo with many regulars - not unlike Saito. I can't be certain as I've really only garnered information from photoblogs and trip reports through Chowhound and Google.

                                                                                    As for Geppa, it has been recommended on CH before and you can probably pull up some more info with a forum search. I'm not sure how similar all of these restaurants are in style or whether they differ (stand-out speciality items?) in terms of cuisine. Here's a blog entry on Geppa that you can read up on though. They all look very good to me: http://singaporemallrat.wordpress.com...

                                                                                    Ultimately, Kahala was a higher priority for me due to the interesting history; I'm always a sucker for older restaurants and cultural institutions and it's rare to see many mid-century Japanese eateries still in operation. Most either date to much older and historic status (incl. newer restaurants in old heritage buildings) or modern establishments. The idea of a 1960's Japanese steakhouse turned modern-fusion dining in a highly atmospheric setting ultimately appealed to me best. As I said though, if given the opportunity to visit Momen in this trip, I wouldn't hesitate at all... unfortunately it was booked on our one free night and with all the exhaustive eating we'll be doing on this trip, I decided that it wasn't worth battling it out for a reservation (if that would have even been possible) on a seperate night which would have interfered with our other plans. We'll just save it for a return visit.

                                                                                    If you do end up getting a seat at Momen, I'd love to get your feedback - please be sure to post a review.

                                                                                    When is your next trip btw? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on all of your dining destinations; I'm sure we have a lot of overlap by the sounds of it.

                                                                                    Cheers.

                                                                                    1. re: OliverB

                                                                                      These are my dining destinations so far. My fixer and I am currently deciding the list. So there may be changes. I will stay 42 days in Tokyo, 9 days in Kyoto, 7 days in Osaka and 5 days in Sapporo. We planned also 2 days in Matsusaka, but in the end skipped Matsusaka all togehter and might instead travel to two - three different Ryokans instead for one night each.

                                                                                      We intend to drink wine/sake and snack between lunch and dinner as well as after dinner every day.

                                                                                      We also plan to have a cocktail, cognac/cigar or single malt between dinner and the late night snack every day.

                                                                                      In Tokyo the snack between lunch and dinner will be a regular place called Kanemasu. The after dinner snack will be left totally open to the fixer for him to show me the unknown and low to mid end of Tokyo. I am pretty sure Ukyo will be one of the places we will return to several times.

                                                                                      In Kyoto it is the snack between lunch and dinner which will be left totally open to the fixer for him to show me the unknown and low to mid end of Tokyo. The snack after dinner will be a regular place every day called Yamashita.

                                                                                      In Osaka it is the snack between lunch and dinner which will be left totally open to the fixer for him to show me the unknown and low to mid end of Osaka. The snack after dinner will be a regular place every day called Mille Carresses.

                                                                                      Tokyo Lunch:
                                                                                      Sense
                                                                                      Fook Lam Moon Ginza
                                                                                      Hei Fung Terrace
                                                                                      Chugoku Hanten Fureika
                                                                                      Cuisine Michel Troisgros
                                                                                      Maison Paul Bocuse
                                                                                      Beige by Alain Ducasse
                                                                                      Aoyama Florilege
                                                                                      Esquisse
                                                                                      Apicius
                                                                                      La Tour D'Argent
                                                                                      L'Equateur
                                                                                      L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
                                                                                      Ristorante Aso
                                                                                      Nirvana New York
                                                                                      Siam Heritage Tokyo
                                                                                      Nodaiwa
                                                                                      Katsuzen
                                                                                      Seryna Roppongi Honten
                                                                                      Hiyama
                                                                                      Ukai-tei Omotesando
                                                                                      Ginza Hirayama
                                                                                      Aragawa
                                                                                      Shima
                                                                                      7chome Kyoboshi
                                                                                      Tempura Kondo
                                                                                      Kurogi
                                                                                      Tsujitome
                                                                                      Seika Kobayashi
                                                                                      Seisoka
                                                                                      Ginza Okuda
                                                                                      Genydana Hamadaya
                                                                                      Aoyagi
                                                                                      Sushi Kyubey Ginza
                                                                                      Sushi Ichikawa
                                                                                      Sushi Kanesaka Ginza
                                                                                      Sushi Mitani
                                                                                      Sushi Sawada
                                                                                      Sushi Araki
                                                                                      Sushi Mizutani
                                                                                      Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten
                                                                                      Sushi Saito

                                                                                      Tokyo Dinner:
                                                                                      Pierre Gagnaire
                                                                                      Quintessence
                                                                                      L'Effervescence
                                                                                      L'Osier
                                                                                      Joel Robuchon
                                                                                      Aronia de Takazawa
                                                                                      Les Creations De Narisawa
                                                                                      Ishikawa
                                                                                      Aroma Fresca
                                                                                      Prisma
                                                                                      Torishiki
                                                                                      Ginza Miyama
                                                                                      Kawamura
                                                                                      Tempura Uchitsu
                                                                                      Akasaka Kitafuku
                                                                                      Fugu Fukuji
                                                                                      Usukifugu Yamadaya
                                                                                      Tomura
                                                                                      Azabu Kadowaki
                                                                                      Ginza Okamoto
                                                                                      Kohaku
                                                                                      Morikawa
                                                                                      Jimbocho Den
                                                                                      Yonemura
                                                                                      Fukudaya Kioicho
                                                                                      Aoyama Esaki
                                                                                      Matsukawa
                                                                                      Azabu Yukimura
                                                                                      Ginza Koju
                                                                                      Nihonryori Kanda
                                                                                      Kikonoi Akasaka
                                                                                      Kitcho Tokyo Ginza Honten
                                                                                      Nihonryori Ryugin
                                                                                      Kyouaji
                                                                                      Sushi Kanesada
                                                                                      Sushi Ginza Harutaka
                                                                                      Sushi Umi
                                                                                      Sushi Sho Masa
                                                                                      Sushi Sho Saito
                                                                                      Sushi Sho
                                                                                      Sushi Yoshitake
                                                                                      Sushi Hashiguchi

                                                                                      Kyoto Lunch:
                                                                                      Motoi
                                                                                      Il Ghiottone
                                                                                      Sojiki Nakahigashi
                                                                                      Yonemura
                                                                                      Hyo-tei
                                                                                      Daiichi
                                                                                      Akasaka Tsuruya
                                                                                      Misoguigawa
                                                                                      Gion Chimera

                                                                                      Kyoto Dinner:
                                                                                      Ogata
                                                                                      Gion Sasaki
                                                                                      Mizai
                                                                                      Gion Suetomo
                                                                                      Kichisen
                                                                                      Kikunoi Honten
                                                                                      Kitcho Kyoto Arashiyama Honten
                                                                                      Chihana
                                                                                      Nakamura

                                                                                      Osaka Lunch:
                                                                                      Takoyasu
                                                                                      Quintocanto
                                                                                      Sakurae Toyonaka
                                                                                      Point
                                                                                      Koryu
                                                                                      La Becasse
                                                                                      Kitcho Osaka Koraibashi Honten

                                                                                      Osaka Dinner:
                                                                                      Kitahachi
                                                                                      Sushi Harasho
                                                                                      Sushi Saeki
                                                                                      Momen
                                                                                      Fujiya 1935
                                                                                      Kahala
                                                                                      Hajime

                                                                                      There will also be five lunch and five dinner spots for Sapporo, but I am not sure what spots that will be yet.

                                                                                      1. re: Roysen

                                                                                        Wow, that's quite an ambitious and exciting trip. It sounds like you're in for a real treat!

                                                                                        It'll be interesting to read your comparisons between 7chome Kyoboshi and Tempura Kondo. I also look forward to your review of Ginza Okuda, since another Chow member criticized it earlier in this thread, suggesting that it wasn't a good restaurant. I'm not sure if that's the general concensus with the locals on this board or if it elicits mixed reviews.

                                                                                        Re. sushi, I'm sure that you know Araki has closed. Have you been successful in securing a reservation at Saito and did you do so through a regular? When are your dates btw?

                                                                                        We've decided to book Sawada (doesn't seem to be too difficult according to The Peninsula concierge) along with Yoshitake and Hatsunezushi for lunch. I've read that the latter takes a more educational approach that's geared towards food-tourists (without being touristy) so while it might not rank as the very "best" in Tokyo, it certainly seems fun and rewarding. So far, it's the only sushiya that's taking reservations this early.

                                                                                        From your Tokyo dinner list, we're doing Ishikawa, RyuGin, and Aronia de Takazawa as well. We're doing the Aronia on our final night in Tokyo at the very tail-end of our trip, after returning from Nagasaki. We're doing Nodaiwa for lunch. The rest of our lunch itineraries are pretty casual, low to mid-range no frills spots.

                                                                                        From your Kyoto list, we're also doing Hyo-tei and Kitcho Arashiyama. And Osaka you already know! ;)

                                                                                        I hope you're planning a month-long fast before this trip... it sounds legendary!

                                                                                        douzo meshiagare!
                                                                                        (I think that's 'bon appetit' in Japanese)

                                                                                        1. re: OliverB

                                                                                          I will provide small reviews of all the restaurant visits on this forum.

                                                                                          I know Araki is closed in Tokyo to open in London. I also know he closed in Tokyo to open in London before and was not able to get a Visa. So he temporarily reopened in Tokyo while waiting for a new chance to open in London. He is closed again now. So I am keeping it on my list until he in fact has opened in London and there is no chance that he will return to Tokyo again temporarily or permanently.

                                                                                          The timing of my trip is not set. It depends on when I can get the Tokyo reservations. It will be mid/late October - mid/late December.

                                                                                          I am using a so called fixer for the reservations. We have made no reservations yet, but he says he is confident he will make Saito. He is much more unsure of Mitani.

                                                                                          1. re: OliverB

                                                                                            I am sorry to butt in on your thread with this, but it seemed like you wanted to be kept updated on this so I thought you might be interested in how things are developing. Maybe we can dine together at some point like you also suggested. The reservation work will start Monday.

                                                                                            I have changed the restaurant list again to accomdate one more week. We have decided to stay 24 hours each at three different top Ryokans across Japan to also experience that part of Japanese culture. The rest of that extra week will be in Tokyo. To accomodate these days we changed the restaurant list to the list below. The schedule is now 6 weeks and 4 days in Tokyo, 9 days in Kyoto, 7 days in Osaka, 5 days in Hokkaido and 3 days at Ryokans. There are certain types of Japanese food I want to make sure to experience. I have included at least one restaurant where they specialize in these types of food on the list below. That is the reason why some of the restaurants on the previous list have been switched out with new ones now. Shinji Nohara simply suggested that the current selection represents a better choice of each of these cuisines compared to what was on the list previously.

                                                                                            These restaurnts are chosen to represent the best of that particular cuisine and because of that is the only one of its type on my list:

                                                                                            Sense - Dim Sum
                                                                                            Fook Lam Moon Ginza - Cantonese crispy chicken
                                                                                            Hei Fung Terrace - Cantonese crispy suckling pig
                                                                                            Choguku Hanten Foreika - Daza Xie Shanghai crab
                                                                                            Aoyama Sitaara - Indian
                                                                                            Siam Heritage Tokyo - Thai
                                                                                            Ristorante Aso - Italian
                                                                                            Joel Robuchon - French
                                                                                            Sekine - Unagi
                                                                                            Katsuzen - Tonkatsu
                                                                                            Imafuku - Shabu Shabu
                                                                                            Yoshibashi - Sukiyaki
                                                                                            Torishiki - Yakitori
                                                                                            Ukai-tei Omotesando - Teppanyaki
                                                                                            Shima - Sumiyaki
                                                                                            Wakuden Kodaiji - Taiza crab
                                                                                            Tempura Kondo - Tempura
                                                                                            Fugu Fukuji - Fugu
                                                                                            Kyoaji - Kappo Kaiseki
                                                                                            Kitcho Kyoto Arashiyama Honten - Ryori Kaiseki
                                                                                            Sushi Sho - Sushi

                                                                                            TOKYO LUNCH:
                                                                                            Sense
                                                                                            Fook Lam Moon Ginza
                                                                                            Hei Fung Terrace
                                                                                            Chugoku Hanten Fureika
                                                                                            Cuisine Michel Troisgros
                                                                                            Maison Paul Bocuse
                                                                                            Beige by Alain Ducasse
                                                                                            Crescent
                                                                                            Esquisse
                                                                                            Dominique Bouchet
                                                                                            L'Ecrin Ginza
                                                                                            Apicius
                                                                                            Aoyama Florilege
                                                                                            L'Atelier Joel Robuchon
                                                                                            Ristorante Aso
                                                                                            Equilibrio
                                                                                            Aoyama Sitaara
                                                                                            Siam Heritage Tokyo
                                                                                            Sekine
                                                                                            Katsuzen
                                                                                            Imafuku
                                                                                            Yoshibashi
                                                                                            Ukai-tei Omotesando
                                                                                            Ginza Hirayama
                                                                                            Aragawa
                                                                                            Shima
                                                                                            Tempura Nanachome Kyoboshi
                                                                                            Tempura Kondo
                                                                                            Tempura Rakutei
                                                                                            Tsujitome
                                                                                            Seika Kobayashi
                                                                                            Seisoka
                                                                                            Ginza Okuda
                                                                                            Genydana Hamadaya
                                                                                            Kurogi
                                                                                            Kyoaji
                                                                                            Suchi Ichi
                                                                                            Sushi Shin
                                                                                            Sushi Kyubey Ginza
                                                                                            Sushi Ichikawa
                                                                                            Sushi Kanesaka Ginza
                                                                                            Sushi Mitani
                                                                                            Sushi Sawada
                                                                                            Sushi Mizutani
                                                                                            Sushi Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten
                                                                                            Sushi Saito

                                                                                            TOKYO SNACK EVERY DAY BETWEEN LUNCH AND DINNER:
                                                                                            Kanemasu

                                                                                            TOKYO DINNER:
                                                                                            L'Equateur
                                                                                            La Tour D'Argent
                                                                                            Pierre Gagnaire
                                                                                            Quintessence
                                                                                            L'Effervescence
                                                                                            L'Osier
                                                                                            Joel Robuchon
                                                                                            Aronia de Takazawa
                                                                                            Les Creations De Narisawa
                                                                                            Ishikawa
                                                                                            Aroma Fresca
                                                                                            Prisma
                                                                                            Torishiki
                                                                                            Ginza Miyama
                                                                                            Kawamura
                                                                                            Zezankyo Mikawa Kiyosumi
                                                                                            Tempura Uchitsu
                                                                                            Fugu Fukuji
                                                                                            Usukifugu Yamadaya
                                                                                            Shigeyoshi
                                                                                            Yonemura
                                                                                            Tomura
                                                                                            Azabu Kadowaki
                                                                                            Ginza Okamoto
                                                                                            Kohaku
                                                                                            Akasaka Kikunoi
                                                                                            Jimbocho Den
                                                                                            Morikawa
                                                                                            Fukudaya Kioicho
                                                                                            Aoyama Esaki
                                                                                            Matsukawa
                                                                                            Azabu Yukimura
                                                                                            Ginza Koju
                                                                                            Nihonryori Kanda
                                                                                            Kitcho Tokyo Ginza Honten
                                                                                            Nihonryori Ryugin
                                                                                            Sushi Taku
                                                                                            Sushi Kimura
                                                                                            Sushi Kanesada
                                                                                            Sushi Ginza Harutaka
                                                                                            Sushi Umi
                                                                                            Sushi Sho Masa
                                                                                            Sushi Sho Saito
                                                                                            Sushi Sho
                                                                                            Sushi Yoshitake
                                                                                            Sushi Hashiguchi

                                                                                            TOKYO NIGHTLY DRINKS EVERY DAY:
                                                                                            Every day we will visit mixologist bars, cognac bars, wine bars or a place to enjoy a nice single malt or cognac for a couple of drinks after dinner.

                                                                                            TOKYO NIGHTLY SNACKS TIME EVERY DAY:
                                                                                            Shinji Nohara will take around for snacks to show me the more low-to-mid end and Izakaya places in Tokyo that he would like to show me. I have requsted that he keep it a secret where he is planning to take me for this. One night I know that he will take me to La Boucherie du Buppa to experience bear steak made according to my request. The snack there will almost be like a second dinner so it is important that all the other meals on that day will be on the small side like sushi.

                                                                                            KYOTO LUNCH:
                                                                                            Misoguigawa
                                                                                            Motoi
                                                                                            Gion Chimera
                                                                                            Il Ghiottone
                                                                                            Wakuden Kodaiji
                                                                                            Akasaka Tsuruya
                                                                                            Sojiki Nakahigashi
                                                                                            Yonemura
                                                                                            Hyo-tei

                                                                                            KYOTO SNACK EVERY DAY BETWEEN LUNCH AND DINNER:
                                                                                            Yamashita

                                                                                            KYOTO DINNER:
                                                                                            Ogata
                                                                                            Chihana
                                                                                            Nakamura
                                                                                            Gion Sasaki
                                                                                            Gion Suetomo
                                                                                            Kichisen
                                                                                            Kikunoi Honten
                                                                                            Kitcho Kyoto Arashiyama Honten
                                                                                            Mizai

                                                                                            KYOTO NIGHTLY DRINKS EVERY DAY:
                                                                                            Every day we will visit mixologist bars, cognac bars, wine bars or a place to enjoy a nice single malt or cognac for a couple of drinks after dinner.

                                                                                            KYOTO NIGHTLY SNACKS TIME EVERY DAY:
                                                                                            Shinji Nohara will take around Kyoto for snacks to show me the more low-to-mid end and Izakaya places in Kyoto that he would like to show me. I have requsted that he keep it a secret where he is planning to take me for this.

                                                                                            OSAKA LUNCH:
                                                                                            La Becasse
                                                                                            Point
                                                                                            Quintocanto
                                                                                            Takoyasu
                                                                                            Sakurae Toyonaka
                                                                                            Koryu
                                                                                            Kitcho Osaka Koraibashi Honten

                                                                                            OSAKA SNACK EVERY DAY BETWEEN LUNCH AND DINNER:
                                                                                            Shinji Nohara will take me around Osaka for snacks to show me the more low-to-mid end and Izakaya places in Osaka that he would like to show me. I have requsted that he keep it a secret where he is planning to take me for this.

                                                                                            OSAKA DINNER:
                                                                                            Kitahachi
                                                                                            Sushi Saeki
                                                                                            Sushi Harasho
                                                                                            Momen
                                                                                            Fujiya 1935
                                                                                            Kahala
                                                                                            Hajime

                                                                                            OSAKA NIGHTLY DRINKS EVERY DAY:
                                                                                            Every day we will visit mixologist bars, cognac bars, wine bars or a place to enjoy a nice single malt or cognac for a couple of drinks after dinner.

                                                                                            OSAKA SNACK EVERY DAY AFTER DINNER AND DRINKS:
                                                                                            Mille Carresses

                                                                                            In Hokkaido we will spend one day in Hokodate, one day in Toya and three days in Sapporo. There is no snacks or drinks planned in Hokodate or Toya. I assume that the nightcap drinks in Toya will be at the hotel.

                                                                                            HOKKAIDO LUNCH:
                                                                                            Moilere
                                                                                            Miya-vie
                                                                                            Sushisai Wakichi
                                                                                            Sushidokoro Minami
                                                                                            Sushizen Honten

                                                                                            SAPPORO SNACK EVERY DAY BETWEEN LUNCH AND DINNER:
                                                                                            Shinji Nohara will take me around Sapporo for snacks to show me the more low-to-mid end seafood places and local regional cuisine places in Sapporo that he would like to show me. I have requsted that he keep it a secret where he is planning to take me for this.

                                                                                            HOKKAIDO DINNER:
                                                                                            L'oiseau par Matsunaga
                                                                                            Michel Bras Toya
                                                                                            Nukumi
                                                                                            Sushi Hidetaka
                                                                                            Sushi Tanabe

                                                                                            SAPPORO NIGHTLY DRINKS EVERY DAY:
                                                                                            Every day we will visit mixologist bars, cognac bars, wine bars or a place to enjoy a nice single malt or cognac for a couple of drinks after dinner.

                                                                                            SAPPORO SNACK EVERY DAY AFTER DINNER AND DRINKS:
                                                                                            Picchu

                                                                                            RYOKANS:
                                                                                            Asaba, Shuzenji
                                                                                            Tamanoyu, Yufuin
                                                                                            Murata, Yufuin

                                                                                            I also had Sushi Araki on my original list for lunch in Tokyo. Araki is now moving his restaurnt to London and will open in October. Because of that I can not go to his restauarnt in Tokyo. Instead Shinji and I will go to Europe after the Japan trip for a couple of weeks. The plan is to combine the best of London, Paris, and Barcelona for a few days in each city. This is the Europe plan:

                                                                                            LONDON LUNCH:
                                                                                            Araki

                                                                                            LONDON DINNER:
                                                                                            The Fat Duck

                                                                                            PARIS LUNCH:
                                                                                            Okuda Paris
                                                                                            L'Atelier Joel Robuchon Saint German
                                                                                            Epicure
                                                                                            Le Pre Catelan
                                                                                            Ledoyen
                                                                                            Le Grand Vefour
                                                                                            Le Cinq
                                                                                            Taillevent

                                                                                            PARIS DINNER:
                                                                                            L'Ambroisie
                                                                                            Pierre Gagnaire
                                                                                            Le Meurice
                                                                                            Alain Ducasse at Plaza Atheene
                                                                                            Guy Savoy
                                                                                            L'Arpege
                                                                                            Le Chateaubriand
                                                                                            L'Astrance

                                                                                            BARCELONA LUNCH:
                                                                                            Botafumeiro
                                                                                            Rias de Galicia
                                                                                            Koy Shunka
                                                                                            Pakta
                                                                                            Moments
                                                                                            Dos Cielos
                                                                                            Rocca Moo
                                                                                            Cal Pep

                                                                                            BARDELONA DINNER:
                                                                                            ABAC
                                                                                            Dos Palillos
                                                                                            Tickets
                                                                                            Comerc 24
                                                                                            Lasarte
                                                                                            Alkimia
                                                                                            The Mirror
                                                                                            Arola

                                                                                            1. re: Roysen

                                                                                              Wow, I'm impressed Roy! This is a real international gourmet pilgrimage! It sounds like an unforgettable experience and I hope that you savor every moment of it. I know a little bit about the circumstances behind your trip and I really wish you well and hope that it's everything you envision and more.

                                                                                              Out of curiosity, how come you chose to have dinner at Kondo rather than 7chome? I can't imagine it being a cost consideration. Were you unable to secure reservations?

                                                                                              I'm also curious how many of the Tokyo restaurants you've actually booked so far? I understand that the November calendars open up on Monday for many restaurants, so I'm waiting to hear back from my concierge concerning the majority of our reservations. I'm also waiting on Fujiya1935. They apparently don't start accepting reservations for our dates in November until Sept. 25th. I've mentioned already that we were unable to book Momen in Osaka, so I hope that you have better luck.

                                                                                              And if our schedules overlap, it'd be a pleasure to share a meal or cocktails with you. Shinji must be working overtime to coordinate all of this; that must be a logistical nightmare, but hopefully it all works out! You aren't butting in on my thread btw, I enjoy living vicariously through your gastronomic jetset adventures!

                                                                                              Cheers,
                                                                                              Oliver

                                                                                              PS - We've chosen Nodaiwa for our unagi meal in Tokyo. Do you (or anyone else) know whether reservations are necessary for lunch seatings?

                                                                                              1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                Oliver,

                                                                                                In regards to the the choice of when to eat tempura, my preferance would really have been to have all tempura meals for lunch. To me tempura is a lunch type of food. Shinji and I have a plan to skip breakfast every day, get out of bed late to just catch the restaurants lunch opening hour (which is when we will have lunch reservations) and really treat lunch as breakfast. The reason being the late night snacking which we plan to do every day late into the night. The reason for skipping breakfast partly also being that breakfast in addition to the other meals we have planned simply would be too much food in one day. The late night snacking is also about enjoying good sake and wine, so we might be a bit hung over a couple of mornings. Tempura is great food for hung over moments and because of that preferable for lunch hour. So Rakutei, Kondo and 7chome Kyoboshi have been chosen for lunch hour. Some tempura restaurants are not open during lunch hour though. That is the case with Uschitsu and Mikawa Zezankyo (I plan to go to the Mikawa Zezankyo branch where the main chef is located) and also the reason why those two tempura restaurants have been chosen for dinner and not lunch. I would like to add that all the restaurants on my list will be reserved with the biggest dinner tasting menu/omakase/kaiseki meal even if we are dining at lunch hour to be able to enjoy the very best the chef has to offer at every restaurant. So my hope is that we will experience the best even if dining during lunch time. In reagrds to Kondo vs 7chome Kyoboshi, I think you must have read my list and made a mistake because they are both set up for lunch.
                                                                                                What I suspect you might mean is to ask why Kondo was chosen as the main tempura restaurant for the entire trip on my list of what restaurants have been chosen as the one to represent each type of Japanese cuisine I want to experience described in the beginning of my previous post. The reason is simnply that it is Shinji's recomendation that Kondo is superior over 7chome Kyoboshi. Another reason being that I have explained to Shinji that I have a particular preferance for sweet potato tempura and that is a speciality at Kondo.

                                                                                                I would like to make a correction to the post above. I wrote that the restaurants picked out to represent different types of Japanese cuisine were the only one of its type on the trip. This is not the case with all the types of cuisine I mentioned. There are several restaurants for fugu, tempura, kappo kaiseki, ryori kaiseki and sushi as well as several restaurants of Italian and French.

                                                                                                We have only booked one restaurant on the entire list as of today and that is at Jimocho Den. The reservation work at the other restaurants will start tomorrow. With some very hard to book restaurants work is more of a process which has started but not finished. These include for instance Mitani. Shinji has told me that there are a few of the restauarnts he is a bit worried about managing to book a reservation at. Those being Mitani and Kyoaji in Tokyo as well as Mizai in Kyoto. He says he is not worried about the rest. To arrange trips like this is his profession and he do it all the time so I guess he has special relations with most of the chefs and restauarnts which will make him able to be treated like a regular guest and get these reservations. For now I am content with that. My trip is of course a bit out of the ordinary compared to what he usually is doing with a lot more restaurants, so he has hired in the help of two concierges who will help him with the reservation work. Those two concierges are according to Shinji the two most experienced concierges in all the hotels in Tokyo. He has called them and hired them to help him with this work. Shinji also have to assistants who will be working with reservations on the telephone with restaurants which does not require a personal bond with the restaurant or chef to manage the booking. Additionally Shinji has a large contact network who will help him with the reservations in the cities outside Tokyo. The restaurants we know are the hardest to book reservations at, those restaurants we can't manage to reach by phone and those restaurants we get feedback on the phone are fully booked in Tokyo on the day they accept reservations by phone for the following month (on 1st of September, 1st of October and 1st of November) Shinji and the two concierges will go personally to the restaurant to book the reservations. In the other cities similar restaurants will be booked by Shinji's contacts who will go personally to the restaurants in those cities to book the reservations. It is on these personal visits to the restaurants that he plans to bring my medical journal to the restaurant and explain about my medical situation, the purpose of the trip and why we hope they can help me fulfill the highest final whish of a dying man. This last piece of information will not be presented if we don't need to and Shinji says that he can use this information to our advantage because he knows the chefs already and they trust him to tell the truth about such information in addition to Shinji being my Japanese company inside the restaurant taking away any responsibility the restaurant might feel they have for my health situation.

                                                                                                To help the logistic process of the reservation process I have devided all the restaurants on the Japan trip into three different priority categories - Red (1st priority), Green (2nd priority) and Purple (3rd priority). The reservation team will start by making bookings at the red restaurants only. They will devide the red restaurants among them so that each team member has responsibility for a certain set of the red restaurants. When all the red restaurants have either been reserved or denied, the team will start with the green restaurants and do a similar process with those. When all the green restauants have been reserved or denied, the team will start with the purple restaurants. This system is set up to make sure that we don't end up in a situation where we try to book a reservation at a higher priority restauant and we are already occupied on that time because of a previous booking of a lower priority restauant. This system is also set up so two members don't book the same restaurant. What we also need to figure out today is a way to avoid two members making their bookings at the same lunch or dinner spot. I am thinking about a spreadsheet with all the restauarnts in it distributed on Google Documents where the team members can fill in the bookings they have made as it is done for the others to see what time is still available and what is occupied by other bookings.

                                                                                                In regards to Nodaiwa and unagi I would like to add that I also had Nodaiwa on my list as the unagi restaurant I wanted to visit in Japan originally when I had chosen all the restaurants myself. When Shinji made his recomendations he told me that Sekine was a far superior choice, so I switched out Nodaiwa for Sekine myself even though that means missing the option of the unagi with caviar tasting menu. To me it would be most important that the unagi itself is best and according to Shinji it is at Sekine. If you decide to go to Nodaiwa you will need to book a reservation even at lunch but keep in mind that there are several Nodaiwa branches in Tokyo and you must book the main Honten branch. The others are no good at all according to what I have been informed.

                                                                                                Cheers,
                                                                                                Roy

                                                                                                PS! Hope to meet you over a cocktail or a meal somewhere.

                                                                                                Add: Talked to Shinji today and he can tell me that at this moment it looks good both for Mitani and Saito.

                                                                                                1. re: Roysen

                                                                                                  That's quite a plan, Roysen!

                                                                                                  I didn't initially notice 7chome on your list above, which is why I asked about it. I'm surprised that Shinji favors Kondo though. I understand about your preference for sweet potato, but 7chome seems to be heads and tails above Kondo in all other respects, including the quality and diversity of ingredients sourced.

                                                                                                  Btw, if I can help with any of your reservations, please let me know. We've already booked a private tatami room at Kitcho in Kyoto for instance and you'd all be more than welcome to join us for dinner 11/19.

                                                                                                  We're doing the same as you with regards to breakfasts - we plan on getting up early (hopefully!) to sightsee and tour, have lunch by 11:00 AM most days (perhaps a small bite beforehand since my wife's hypoglycemic and can's go too long without food) and skip breakfasts altogether, with the exception of Tsujiki.

                                                                                                  As for Nodaiwa, we'll be eating a lot of unagi on this trip and I was very excited about the caviar pairing and drawn to the restaurant in part because of it's history, so we'll probably stick with our plans to eat lunch there.

                                                                                                  Would you mind letting me know more about Saito when you have that locked in? You could email me direct if you like at: oliverbesner@sympatico.ca

                                                                                                  If you will likely find yourselves there before November 7th (when we leave Tokyo for the next leg of our trip) and might be able to squeeze in 2 extra seats, we'd really love to join you for that as it's been at the top of our list for this trip. That would be a lot of fun! As I mentioned, I'm friendly with a regular visitor who's been going to Saito as his "regular spot" well before the place became famous and impossible to book, yet he was unable to get us in.

                                                                                                  I'll eventually get around to posting about my ambitious cocktail crawl too! That's what my wife is REALLY excited about. :)

                                                                                                  Cheers!

                                                                                                  Edit: I'm surprised to see that Kondo is in fact rated above 7chome on Tablelog but I wonder how much price factors into that ranking.

                                                                                                  1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                    According to Shinji it is actually the other way around. Kondo is head and shoulders above 7chome. Of course personal taste is involved in such statements but from what I understand from Shinji there really is no contest in this particular comparison. He recomends Rakutei and Kondo.

                                                                                                    He also says Mikawa is not worth visiting but I decided to put it on the list anyway.

                                                                                                    Thanks for the offer of joining you at Kitcho. I will consider that option. It will depend on the timing of my stay in Kyoto. I will also get back to you on Sushi Saito once I know more.

                                                                                                    Cocktail crawl is an interesting subject. We will be having drinks every night afer dinner. We will be mixing up mixologist bars, winebars, sake bars, cigar bars where I hope to enjoy cigars with good selections of cognac or single malt whiskis and bars where we just go for the nice view or interior. I have big plans here too. So swapping plans and experiences in this regard would be very interesting for me too.

                                                                                                    1. re: Roysen

                                                                                                      Wow, thanks for that info.

                                                                                                      I originally had Kondo on my list as you know, but decided to switch to 7chome as a splurge based on the feedback that I've read on this board. I was a bit hesitant due to cost as it seems a bit exorbitant for a tempura meal, but I had also read that it was the benchmark and unlike any other tempura you could hope to experience; whereas people seemed to rate Kondo very highly but not as proficiently executed or sublime. I trust Nishi's opinion though, so I'm going to try and switch our dinner to Kondo. I hope it won't be too late!

                                                                                                      1. re: Roysen

                                                                                                        I'm curious as why Shinji went from persona non grata to esteemed food guide.

                                                                                                        Also, he's known more as a general guide (more famous because of his ability to speak English, from what I understand) than a gourmand, so why is so much faith being put into his tastes? Is it at all possible he has an ulterior motive for recommending the restaurants he does? (In Thailand, for example, taxi guides often get a little bit of money or gas chits for bringing tourists to their restaurants or stores).

                                                                                                        It's a little interesting that you reverted to your original stance regarding Thai and Indian restaurants. You had at one point decided to look for restaurants that served good food regardless of atmosphere as opposed to posh restaurants which may not have the most "authentic" flavours. Why the backtracking?

                                                                                                        I doubt Shinji has as much experience with Europe--you'd probably be better off finding a local guide for those areas. Plus by the end of your Japan leg, you may be sick of each other (you don't even know each other, after all). Still, since you could add a couple of weeks for Europe, why the reluctance to add a week for Bangkok and Hong Kong?

                                                                                                        1. re: prasantrin

                                                                                                          I know nothing about Shinji but I am curious how others on the board feel about his opinion towards Kondo and 7chobe. I was initially reluctant to spend the money for 7chobe but decided that this trip was a good excuse for a bit of careless extravagance and decided it would be a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience; I can't imagine any other time when we'd do this. If anyone else agrees that Kondo is in fact "head and shoulders above 7chome" however, I will gladly switch our reservations and be very happy for the savings.

                                                                                                          As for skepticism about recommendations and kickbaks from restaurants, it's highly doubtful. Not only does that seem to stand in complete contrast with what I know and have learned of Japanese culture and etiquette, but under the particular circumstances of Roysen's excursion, I would find it in extremely poor taste and unlikely. I'm sure that Shinji is being generously compensated.

                                                                                                          I would tend to agree that a local guide in the other cities might seem more practical and surely more cost efficient, but perhaps they've hit it off well together.

                                                                                                          1. re: prasantrin

                                                                                                            prasantrin,

                                                                                                            You seem to know very little about Shinji. I think you should just do a simple search of Shinji Nohara on the internet and answers to most of your questions will really fall into place of its own. Shinji is certainly most known for taking people around to restaurants. He might have alternative motives for recomending the restaurants he does. It is however I who have made the choices for where to dine myself based on a lot of information besides Shinji's advice. There are only three restaurants on the entire list where I have chosen his recomendation over my initial choice where the substituion is not based on much more than his advice. Those choices are unagi at Sekine instead of at Nodaiwa, sukiyaki at Yoshibashi instead of at Hiyama and shabu shabu at Imafuku instead of Sernya Roppongi Honten. At this point I am pretty sure his recomendations on unagi, sukiyaki and shabu shabu are pretty sound and don't doubt them at all. In regards to tempura I also think his reasoning for prefering Kondo over 7chome sounds very rational and fair. I see no reason why I should not trust him. I assume you don't either since you don't seem to know him too well yourself.

                                                                                                            Shinji was always my first choice. The reaon he at one point was not so popular with me was because he vanished without a trace and no response for more than two weeks in the middle of the planning phase of this trip. We have straightened that out and as far as his knowledge and contacts in regards to restaurants and that side of Tokyo you seem to be very misinformed. The fact that he already today has made quite a few very hard reservations that knowledgable members on this board have told me to just forget because I will not manage kind of prove that you are wrong about him.

                                                                                                            Other than that I see no reason why I should justify my choices of guides, restaurants or preferances to anyone. If you don't agree. No problem but it is my trip so of course I will choose what suit me.

                                                                                                            As far as Indian and Thai restaurants go I have chosen the restaurants myself. Shinji has not been involved in the decision at all. I have chosen those two restaurants based on studies of tabelog. It has nothing to do with posh interior and nice views and everything to do about the food. I have however been looking for restaurants where they serve some particular dishes I really like. I have never written that I have been looking for Thai and Indian restauratns with the most authentic flavours. I have in fact specificly written that I am looking for Indian and Thai restaurants where they serve some specific dishes.

                                                                                                            Shinji is my friend. I am not bringing him to Europe as my guide. Shinji has contacts that will help me get a reservation at Araki in London. We wanted to go on this trip to Europe together as friends where I wanted to visit Araki in London and he wanted to visit Okuda in Paris. So we decided to go together. The other restaurants we will visit in Europe are all my choices and advice to Shinji since I know Paris and Barcelona very well myself having trabelled on a lot of gourmet tours there myself over he years.

                                                                                                            1. re: Roysen

                                                                                                              Well Roy, I just heard back from my concierge at The Peninsula and most of my dinners are booked!

                                                                                                              So far, I've got the following confirmed:

                                                                                                              TOKYO

                                                                                                              10/30 - RyuGin, 6:30 PM
                                                                                                              11/01 - Hatsunezushi, 12:00-Noon
                                                                                                              11/01 - Ginza Okuda, 8:30 PM
                                                                                                              11/04 - Nanachome Kyoboshi, 7:30 PM
                                                                                                              11/05 - Ishikawa, 7:30 PM

                                                                                                              Still waiting for a booking at Sushi Yoshitake when their calendar opens next month. Sawada was closed today but I should hopefully receive confirmation tomorrow. Fingers crossed! I'm also waiting to book Aronia de Takazawa for early December because we fly back to Tokyo from Nagasaki for one night before returning home. I won't be able to book that until November (when we're in Japan!) but I don't expect it will be a problem. I've already been speaking with them via email and they seem very nice and accommodating. For lunches, we're mostly sticking with low-key casual spots (Rokurinsha and Chukasoba Suzuran, Tonki and Butagumi) and we'll probably book Nodaiwa and Hirosaku as well on the higher end. I want to look into Goemon in Hakusan as well for tofu in a spectacular setting (private tea house). I'm gonna work on that shortly... along with our exhaustive cocktail list! We've also got a couple of walk-in plans, like Ishii (izakaya) on arrival. We'll probably have breakfast at Tsukiji the next morning since we'll surely be jetlagged and wired at 5am. I'd also like to swing by Omusubi Gonbei for a quick breakfast snack one morning too, and maybe just for the atmosphere - breakfast in the Orchid Room at Hotel Okura. I'd also like to check out some of the "depachika" at places like Shinjuku Takashimaya, Iseta, Nihonbashi Takashimaya, etc. for afternoon snacks, but only if we're nearby. I mentioned that the missus is hypoglycemic and since we'll generally only be eating two meals each day, we'll probably be stopping often for small nibbles here and there. I'm sure we'll be tempted by everything we see! :)

                                                                                                              KYOTO

                                                                                                              11/15 - Gion Yata, 7:15 PM
                                                                                                              11/16 - Hyotei, 11:30 AM
                                                                                                              11/18 - Shoraian, 11:30 AM
                                                                                                              11/19 - Kitcho Arashiyama, 7:00 PM

                                                                                                              Still waiting for a booking at Kamigamo Akiyama when their calendar opens next month. I have a list of lunch spots that we'll likely chose from based on location and convenience as we'll be busy sightseeing and exploring during the day.

                                                                                                              OSAKA

                                                                                                              11/22 - Kahala, 8:40 PM
                                                                                                              11/23 - Kani Douraku Honten, 8:00 PM

                                                                                                              Still waiting for a booking at Fujiya 1935 when their calendar opens later this month. As mentioned previously, we're mostly eating casually in Osaka: takoyaki, okonomiyaki, sukiyaki, kushiage, gyoza, etc. I'd prefer to keep our plans more laid back here.

                                                                                                              Of course we have plenty of ryokan meals inbetween, as well as regional cusine, seafood, sushi, and a few izakayas booked in the various rural towns we're passing through. I've covered most of Ishikawa in a separate thread. Nagasaki is our only departure, where we'll mostly be eating Chinese and a few regional dishes but no reservations at all!

                                                                                                              Looking forward to hearing how your bookings come along. Any luck with the hard to secure sushiyas in Tokyo? You mentioned that you've already got a few places locked in.

                                                                                                              Cheers!

                                                                                                              1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                                These are the confirmations I have so far:

                                                                                                                Sushi Mizutani 12:00 omakase
                                                                                                                Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, 12:30 omakase
                                                                                                                Quintessence 20:00 dinner
                                                                                                                20:00 Les Creations de Narisawa, biggest dinner tasting menu,
                                                                                                                21:00 Nihonryori Kanda, biggest dinner omakase,
                                                                                                                20:30 Aoyama Esaki, biggest kaiseki menu,
                                                                                                                19:30 Azabu Yukimura, biggest kaiseki menu,
                                                                                                                21:30 Ishikawa, biggest kaiseki menu,
                                                                                                                21:30 Nihonryori Ryugin, biggest kaiseki menu,
                                                                                                                21:30 Ginza Koju, biggest kaiseki menu,
                                                                                                                21:00, Jimbocho Den, biggest kaiseki menu,
                                                                                                                Kyoaji 12:00 biggest dinner kaiseki

                                                                                                                The remaining red category (first priority) restaurants are:

                                                                                                                TOKYO
                                                                                                                Aragawa (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Shima (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Sushi Kanesaka Ginza (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Sushi Mitani (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Sushi Sawada (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Sushi Saito (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Pierre Gagnaire (Dinner)
                                                                                                                L'Effervescence (Dinner)
                                                                                                                L'Osier (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Joel Robuchon (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Aronia de Takezawa (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Kawamura (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Morikawa (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Fukudaya Kiocho (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Matsukawa (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Kitcho Tokyo Ginza Honten (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Susho Sho Masa (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Sushi Sho Saito (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Sushi Sho (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Sushi Yoshitake (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Sushi Hashiguchi (Dinner)

                                                                                                                KYOTO
                                                                                                                Soijiki Nakahitashi (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Yonemura (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Hyo-tei (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Chihana (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Nakamura (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Gion Sasaki (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Gion Suetomo (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Kichisen (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Kikunoi Honten (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Mizai (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Kitcho Kyoto Arashiyama Honten (Dinner)

                                                                                                                OSAKA
                                                                                                                Kicho Osaka Koraibashi Honten (Lunch)
                                                                                                                Momen (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Fuijya 1935 (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Kahala (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Hajime(Dinner)

                                                                                                                HOKKAIDO
                                                                                                                Sushizen Honten (Lunch)
                                                                                                                L'Oiseau par Matsunaga (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Michel Bras (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Sushi Hidetaka (Dinner)
                                                                                                                Sushi Tanabe (Dinner)
                                                                                                                ¨
                                                                                                                So still some to go but I also have 1st of October and 1st of November to make reervations in November and December too. Some of these restaurants also don't require reservation on the 1st for the following month. There are also of course the second and third priority restaurnts but those are a lot easier to book.

                                                                                                                1. re: Roysen

                                                                                                                  Roysen: this is meant as no disrespect to Shinji and your fixing team, but are you really getting 'value for money' from the service?

                                                                                                                  I don't think that any of the restaurants that you have confirmed bookings at are particularly hard to book with a good concierge or just a Japanese speaker.

                                                                                                                  Even Kyo Aji despite being 'introduction only' take lunchtime reservations with no introduction when they are quiet which I see you have.

                                                                                                                  As ever this is not meant as a slight on your plans but I am surprised a top end hotel which I think you mentioned you were planning to stay at in the past would be unable to do most of the work.

                                                                                                                  1. re: terrych

                                                                                                                    Thanks for your concern, Terrych. To be honest I actually think Shinji is inexpensive compared to everyone else I have been in contact with to do the same job. I have also been in contact with the hotel concierges and they certainly can make a lot of reservations but from the list of reservations confirmed so far there were quite a few they thought they could not manage. Please also take notice of the fact that I am paying Shinji for his company on a day by day basis where he will be with me from I get out of bed in the morinng until I go to bed at night. Because of my health condition I will need a person like that in case something should happen to me. Additionally Shinji will acompany me to all the restaurants and act as a translator and food guide to help me comunicate with the chef. He charges no extra for that. I have to pay for his meal of course. Other fixers I have been in contact with charges more pr day than Shinji. Additional they will also charge extra for the time inside the restaurant and additional for the reservation work. Shinji does not charge anything for the reservation work at all. It is included in the price. So I have to disagree with you on the value for money here. Shinji's true value will show itself when he is to present the results of the reservation work at Kawamura, Sushi Mitani, Sushi Saito and Mizai. He has indicated to me that it looks good for me to be able to go to all of them. I am pretty sure no hotel concierge could manage those reservations.

                                                                                                            2. re: prasantrin

                                                                                                              The reason two weeks in Europe was chosen over a week in Hong Kong and a week in Bangkok was the desire to go to Araki. It has a really high priority with me.

                                                                                                              Of course we could go to Hong Kong and Bangkok before going just a day or two in London. That can actually still happen nothing in regards to the trip to Europe is finally decided yet except the whish to go to Araki.

                                                                                                          2. re: OliverB

                                                                                                            The restaurant list contains 7chome but with its alternative spelling - Nanachome.

                                                                                                2. re: OliverB

                                                                                                  Thank you very much! That is very helpful!

                                                                                                  1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                    By sheer coincidence we dined at Kahala the night after having dinner at Shingetsu, one of the spaces above Yukimura, which after various experiments he is currently running as a French/Steak fusion kappo concept. To say that Shingetsu blew Kahala out of the water would be an understatement, by which I'm not saying Kahala is bad, but that it is rather hard to support as a two-michelin-star restaurant.

                                                                                                    1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                      Thanks for the feedback, Gargle. Do you have a link to Shingetsu by chance? We already have reservations at Kahala and I don't want to drive our concierge crazy so I think we'll probably stick with it, but I'm curious to know what you felt were the restaurant's biggest shortcomings?

                                                                                                      The Tablelog rating is 4.4 so I wonder if you had an off night?

                                                                                                      http://tabelog.com/osaka/A2701/A27010...

                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                        Also how accessible would you say that Kahala is to someone (ie. my wife) who doesn't eat red meat?

                                                                                                        1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                          Well, Shingetsu is in Tokyo so it's not really a drop-in replacement if you're in Osaka.

                                                                                                          While the food was largely delicious, almost each item I could directly compare to recent experiences was either not as successful as in other places, or just seemed out of place in a high end meal, at times making points that do not need to be made today.

                                                                                                          For example, grape jelly - made from local wine grapes, and inside it three pink globes that clearly were not grapes. You'll see these gels with fruits in them all over Japan, so it's an obvious joke, but the "grapes" - made of winter melon colored pink tasted like winter melon, which is to say, not of much. Considering the sort of post-Mugaritz trompe l'oeil that's been trickling down to mid-range restaurants, this was plain silly and I'm told by Mrs. Gargle tasted no better than the nicer brands of fruit jelly.

                                                                                                          Or milk chai, served at the end of the meal - yes, I get your point that this (not to mention an excellent but very spicy curry puff) indicates an elevation of food normally found in a cafe or a kissa, but it should be better than at those places.

                                                                                                          Or the "tail feathers" of whale, which we also had at that whale Izakaya (Doozono) I mentioned to Roysen (where he should definitely go) the version here came with an inspired mustard seed pairing but was flimsy and lackluster.

                                                                                                          The beef was delicious of course.

                                                                                                          Service was annoying - if I understand the personalities involved, there's a point being made there that at the end of service the place looks exactly as it did before - all the plates have been washed, the cooking surface has been scrubbed, you take your napkin with you... but this also means it's the only place in Japan where items were being snatched away as soon as it seems you're done with them (this means a multiplicity of snatchings in the zensai plate)

                                                                                                          And I forgot the sales pitch - "This dish uses this coffee oil that we make". "This one uses not-so-salty salt that a company makes for us". With packages being pushed in your face and available for sale.

                                                                                                          As for your query on your wife's red meat affliction - I don't really know what the reaction would be (or if she includes whale, duck, and other items that'll probably be served in this category), but you can call and ask as they have English speaking staff.

                                                                                                          1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                            Thanks for the rundown, Gargle!

                                                                                                            Was this your first experience at Kahala?

                                                                                                            As for my wife - she doesn't eat any red meat or game, though the latter is somewhat discretionary. She'll eat the duck at Eleven Madison Park for instance. I'm sure she'd try whale. Although it's not red meat, she has an aversion to pork or wild boar for some strange reason. Again, she might be willing to try it but wouldn't likely ever order it on a menu and I don't know that she'd do an entire course of it. She really only eats fish (all seafood and shellfish), poultry and fowl. She's as much of a food and drink enthusiast as I am, only a bit less adventurous. She'll be happy wherever we go though, so my concern was more about the chef and kitchen. I've asked our hotels to relay this to all restaurants when making our reservations, so I assume we should be fine in the end.

                                                                                                            1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                              Doozono is one of the restaurants we will visit for snacks. Thanks for that advice.

                                                                                                                1. re: Gargle

                                                                                                                  That looks very good. In regards to whale meat it is actually not the experience of whale itself that attracts me. Being from Norway whale is quite common here, so I have had my plenty of whale during the years. What I am looking for in regards to whale in a Japanese whale restaurant is the sashimi from the tail section. This meat is beautifully marbled and has great taste. Since it is only this dish I am looking for a snack place for whale seems more appropriate than a full lunch or dinner. That is the reason why we would like to visit Doozono for snacks.

                                                                                                          2. re: Gargle

                                                                                                            That is very interesting and very useful Gargle. Would you mind telling a little bit more about the meal at Shingetsu?

                                                                                                  2. Re 7chome Kyoboshi: it is not hard to book. Very expensive, 2-3 times more than other high end tempura places, so it is actually quite easy to book based on my experience 2-3 years ago.

                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: FourSeasons

                                                                                                      Thanks FS, that's great to know!

                                                                                                      I had been going back and forth between 7chome and Kondo and I think we're making the right decision. I consider this a "special ocassion" meal and a unique experience for Tokyo. It's not a restaurant we're likely to return to again, but something that we're eager to experience once.

                                                                                                      1. re: OliverB

                                                                                                        I would not include Kondo as the alternative. I know it is a legendary name in the Tempura circle but I was not impressed at all. Two much better alternatives are Mikawa Zezankyo and Yokota.

                                                                                                        1. re: FourSeasons

                                                                                                          Yokota is pretty decent but there is nothing special-special about it. Straight up high-quality tempura, but not a transformational experience. I thought Kondo was worth going because it was quite different, although I'd agree it seems overrated given the price point.

                                                                                                          Rakutei is another good option. I like Tensei in Aoyama as a little-mentioned but excellent place, great value for money. I'd take that over Yokota any day. Mikawa is very good, but you need to go to the Monzen Nakacho head office, not the one in Roppongi Hills.

                                                                                                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                                                                                                            I had Rakutei and Mikawa Zezankyo on the list too earlier but I had to choose between sacrificing waguy steak restaurants and tempura. I chose to sacrifice those two.

                                                                                                            My fixer suggests Kondo and Rakutei are the two best tempura restaurants in Tokyo with Kondo on the very top because of its sweet potato which you might have to order extra. My fixer thinks 7chome Kyoboshi is too expensive. I picked it anyway because of some favourable reviews and blog enteries online.

                                                                                                          2. re: FourSeasons

                                                                                                            Thanks FS,

                                                                                                            It sounds like I won't need an alternative as I'm pretty confident that we'll get into 7c but it's reassuring to know we've made the right decision and picked the right place. Filtering through the photos online, Kondo looks very good but it doesn't look exceptionally special and the ingredients certainly aren't as interesting or unique as 7c. Value for money aside, they're obviously different leagues. I'm sure Kondo would be a perfectly servicable if not wonderful tempure option without all the Michelin hype, and if I were living in Tokyo it would certainly remain on my list of places to try... perhaps it will for a future trip, along with Yokota, Seiju, Raku-tei, Tsunahachi - the latter strictly for atmosphere! I may make a point of doing one or two of these on each return trip. I'm very happy that I decided to go with 7c though, as it'll likely always serve as the benchmark.

                                                                                                            1. re: FourSeasons

                                                                                                              Has Kondo slipped from before? Has only been there once and that was at least five years ago. I remembered that I preferred it over Rakutei then and am looking forward to trying their various a la carte vegetable dishes in the future.

                                                                                                        2. Has anyone been to Hirosaku lately?

                                                                                                          I'm about to make lunch reservations and wanted to get some feedback. Past reports on the board have all been very positive but I haven't read anything too recent.

                                                                                                          Thanks!

                                                                                                          1. Could I please get advice on how much advance time would be required or suggested for brunch at Rokurinsha Tokyo Ramen Station before catching the train to Hakone? I plan on reserving green car seats in advance (booking online) so I'd like to plan optimally. My question is of course about the lineups and wait, not how long is needed to eat a bowl of ramen, haha. This would be on a Tuesday morning. I was thinking ideally around 9:30 AM for ramen.

                                                                                                            Is 1 full hour before departure safe or should I allow ourselves more time to not be rushed and worry about missing our train?