My soon to be Wife and I will be in Japan for 12 days at the end of April / Early May 2014. We live in San Francisco, we love good food. Over the years however, I have moved away from wanting to try all the new Michelin tasting menu's and find myself just wanting delicious solid food. I.e. La Ciccia, Range, Zuni, Nopalito in SF. I have been so busy I have not had time to dedicate to Japan food research, and thus we approach the dates with no reservations, and total confusion.
It seems like the posts on chowhound re: Tokyo and Kyoto are very Michelin / Kaiseki focused. Am I just totally blowing it if I don't drop $400+ for the 2 of us to have one of these experiences? The last time I ate at Manresa in San Francisco I thought it was amazing... but not worth the $600 we spent... I could have had 3+ amazing meals for that.
Can I get "Kaiseki" type food at "normal" price range, a la carte restaurants of high quality in Japan? Should I just try to do some Bento's at the Michelin kaiseki places for lunch?
I really only want to do a $500 dinner splurge one time.. and I want it to be sushi. Saito? Ishikawa?
I'm excited to explore Soba, Tempura, and Izakaya options. I don't care about traditional French restaurants in Japan, but if its an really cool Japanese take on "french" or Italian, or whatever thats worth it, then I would be interested.
Basically can you guys give me a few great starting points for my own research, and some guidance in general about eating in these two great food cities?
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!