I apologize in advance for the length of this post but I tried to organize it as precisely as possible.
My husband and I will be in Japan for the first time in July for 10 days and I would love your help conceptualizing our food. I know how frustrating it can be to be asked to name the “best” restaurants in my city, New York, given that that means so many different things to different people and also there are so many different criteria, so I hope you can appreciate that I’ve spent time researching this board before writing this post.
As background, we are adventurous eaters and regularly eat at the top kappo/kaiseki and sushi omakase restaurants in NYC. My “plan” for the trip is to try to eat at great restaurants showcasing different cuisine styles even though I know we'll only be able to touch the surface of the variety/diversity. So for instance even though we could easily fill all of our Tokyo dinners with the “best” sushi places, we also want to allot some of those nights to other cuisines.
With that in mind, can you please help me create the plan? Additionally, throughout this research, I’ve come across some conflicting information on reservation policies. I’ve tried to include my findings below but please let me know if I’m incorrect and how to best make reservations.
1 night we will be at Gora Kadan so that dinner is taken care of. That leaves 6 nights in Tokyo and 3 in Kyoto.
6 dinners Tokyo
For the breakdown, I’m thinking 2 high-end sushi omakase, 1 tempura, 1 yakitori/izakaya, 1 more “modern” restaurant, 1 steak restaurant (leaning towards Dons de la Nature), and, finally, please humor me here, one restaurant from one of the original Iron Chefs (my husband has a deep sentimental attachment to that show and albeit cheesy his one request is to eat at one of these restaurants). That adds up to 7 dinners, so I will have to turn one into a lunch. Would the lunch course at the sushi omakase places be the same in terms of amount/quality/variety as dinner? I believe I read you can order the dinner “course” at lunch at Saito. We could also try to slot in the Iron Chef restaurant for lunch.
Despite glowing reviews about kaiseki places like Matsukawa, Ishikawa, and Koju, given that I will be focusing on kaiseki in Kyoto, I’m leaning towards skipping these in favor of tempura/yakitori/etc. I also know that Tokyo has some incredible French restaurants but we love Japanese food and unless someone can convince me otherwise, I’m inclined to leave the high-end French dining for France and focus on Japanese food in Japan.
Here's what I've put together thus far. Would appreciate your guidance on which of these I should attempt to reserve (and then cross my fingers I can reserve!).
Sushi Sawada – probably my top pick based on what I’ve read. Reservation policy: Accepts reservations first day of month prior (so call June 1 for July reservations?)? Will our hotel concierge be able to make this one?
Struggling with the second one, since so many sound good (and I’m sure many are outstanding) – thoughts on Sushi Sho, Nakamura, Yoshitake, Saito, Hashiguchi, Mizutani? Is Jiro of comparable high quality or too much hype/marketing at this point?
7Chome Kyobashi – reviews seem to all comment on the high cost but many posters here and elsewhere seem to say that it is delicious and worth it to try once. Would you recommend this or:
Rakutei - although I read that the chef sadly passed away recently so not sure what this means for the restaurant
Torishiki – Reservation policy: Dinner only, Am seeing conflicting information about whether you can only reserve starting first day of month prior (so call June 1 for July reservations) or whether you can book farther out? Will our hotel concierge be able to make this one?
Den - Based on what I’ve read about this place, it seems like something we would love since we really appreciate whimsy in food. Reservation policy: Have hotel concierge make reservation a few months in advance?
Takazawa – Also looks wonderful so I’m torn!
1 Iron Chef restaurant - From my internet research, it seems like the following are restaurants of the original Iron Chefs
Nakamura Koumei Ariake (Nakamura-San)
Kaishoku Michiba (Michiba-San)
La Rochelle (Sakai-san) – if this one, which location? Sanno or Minami-Aoyama
Queen Alice (Ishinabi-san chain)
For lunch, we’d like to have noodles and other “fast” options. I have the following on my list. Will likely choose based on proximity to where we are around lunchtime but unless any of the below are worth specific excursions. Please let me know if any of these should be removed or whether there are any others you especially love that should be considered:
3 dinners Kyoto
Kaiseki – I would like to allot at least 2 dinners to kaiseki – should I allot all 3 to kaiseki? Will our hotel concierge generally be able to make these reservations? It seems like these book several months out, as opposed to many in Tokyo that are 2 months out – is this accurate?
Mizai, Kitcho, and Nakamura are probably at the top of my list.
Others I noted are:
Shoraian - this restaurant’s food looks stunning but I have to admit I don’t love tofu so I’m having a hard time committing to a full meal of it, although I can appreciate how well-executed it probably all is.
Kyo-aji – although like Mizai not sure if we could get a res
If you think we should expand our horizons beyond kaiseki for the third dinner, any recommendations for restaurants noteworthy for their beef - Thoughts on Isshin or Kappo Sou?
If you’ve read this far, thank you so much!!