Quick and brief report of places tried in Japan
Sushi Dai - Was amazed at the freshness of the fish - however very apparent that the rice/vinegar needs a lot of work. Mostly a tourist gimmick which satisfied my curiosity.
Sushi Iwa - First high end sushi experience. Interestingly only first piece of Nigiri felt perfect. The rest of pieces seemed like a battle of balance. Too much wasabi was a running theme that seemed to dominate many fish. After tasting, would love to come back for 'perfect' sushi.
Tamai - On recommendation of fellow diner at sushi Iwa after saying I loved anago on the nigiri. Unfortunately did not like the anago at Tamai much.
L'atelier - Having been to one in St Germain, this place was an insane bargain. 4k yen lunch set + 1.6k for foie gras supplement. Really solid dishes. Most value meal i've had in a long time.
Le Chateau - Despite reviews saying foreigner filled, all guests were japanese except a table of french people. Interestingly Joel Rubuchon was working in kitchen that night. Did not feel the food was 3 michelin star level, but perhaps only 2 stars which was surprising. Service also somewhat mechanical.
Hidemi Sugino - One of the top patisseries in Tokyo according to Tabelog. Worth the trip, although many laud the Ambrosie and Marie; personally the caramel tart and Framboisier were stand outs. Easily on par with top patisseries in Paris.
Other patisseries - Dalloyau (Despite being a chain I thought this was quite good actually), Sadaharu Aoki (OK, but nowhere on par with hidemi), Joel Rubuchon (terribly disappointing).
Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka
Sojiki Nakahigashi - First Kaiseki. Opening plate of five-six elements blew my mind, Textures and Flavours were incredible and produce very fresh. Although not comparable with JR La Chateau directly - I thought this first dish already exceeded JR. One of top dishes. Most dishes were very solid, but a few in the middle were way too salty (river fish). The dessert of grapefruit + sake sorbet + dried fig and dark chocolate was genius. Did not expect something so simple to taste so good together. Easily rate best dish of trip. Overall amazing kaiseki, would go again.
Ryuhei Soba - Best experience of trip - Tucked away in quite neighbourhood the wife/husband team were standout great. We were the only four guests dining that night (six seats in total). Service was top notch and we were made to feel very welcome despite speaking minimal Japanese. The food was very good, soba had just right amount of bite. The produce itself was very fresh (carp and vegetables - close to sojiki nakahigashi) but the interesting part was that some of the recipes were very old. For example they served what appeared to be a dumpling of buckwheat which was apparently what soba was 200 years ago. Also soba featured throughout, with a dessert of soba cake and soba chocolate. For something like 8 courses this meal was $65. Incredible value and a true experience of Omotenashi. Was debating whether to even post about this place because it is such a gem.
Hirokawa - Unagi top notch, the miso soup was actually the best I had anywhere. Also standout was the tomago wrapped unagi which just melted in my mouth. Worth a visit, although at 5k yen its not a must.
Oi Nikuten - First kobe beef experience. The Kobe beef was perfectly done and just melted in my mouth. The other side dishes were just OK and service pretty average.
Taian - Pretty disappointing service and food. Although the grill dish of Chicken was absolutely amazing. Best chicken I have had by a long way. The rest of the meal disappointed. Mind boggling how a place like this even got 4.0 on Tabelog and 3 michelin stars. Not value would avoid in the future.
Takama - Soba house in Osaka. Duck broth soba was very good, although the soba was probably not as good as Ryuhei. However at 1000-2000 yen, this place is incredible value. I would rec this place to anyone.
Definitely a lot of new experiences which were incredible. I never really understood Japanese cuisine until high end sushi and Kaiseki. Truly just blows your mind in terms of the quality being served at those places.
Tabelog was invaluable guide in Japan. I felt that the few times we just stumbled on places we were burnt pretty badly with poor quality food.