My wife and I are stopping in Tokyo for 4 nights as a prolonged layover on our way to New Zealand. This will be our first trip to Japan. Because it is such a short stay we are really just looking to take it easy and get a feel for the country, get over our jet lag, and relax at the beginning of our vacation. Will come back for a longer trip in the future and try to dig deeper, learn some of the language beyond the basic essential courtesies, get out of Tokyo, etc....but this trip we will just keep it simple.
Mostly not going the fine dinning and advanced reservations path this trip, probably a lot of noodles and izakaya. But would like to have one nice multi course meal to experience the presentation and seasonality and traditional Japanese cooking and ingredients. A kappo where we can watch the preparation from a counter sounds great to me, or some similar experience. Can anyone recommend a more traditional place with an emphasis on seasonal foods and ideally a higher likelihood for English being spoken so we can not just enjoy the taste and appearance, but also understand more about the dishes and preparation? I am not needing the best, just good quality ingredients and hopefully value (this will be on the front end of the trip, so trying to not kill our budget right from the start, so 10,000 yen or less per person would be great, but can do more if that is just not a realistic budget). The experience will be the main goal. We eat about anything, variety would be great, but would take recommendations in any traditional specialty. Fine with lunch instead of dinner, but seems the type of experience I am looking for with multiple courses may be less likely at lunch. Doing research I found Ginza Toyoda and Ishikawa both looked liked options on the higher end of what I hoped to spend and very formal, but figured I would ask here if anyone know of someplace maybe a little less famous that would be even a better option for me given what I am looking for (value, experience, and hopefully some English and conversation so we can learn a bit). Maybe a more local feeling place, even edging towards Izakaya would be fine.
We are staying at the Park Hyatt (in case you are wondering why I am asking for affordable restaurant and staying at an expensive hotel...it was free with hotel points ;), so hoping they can make reservations for us. The restaurant does not need to be near there though.
However, for near our hotel, can anyone recommend any casual Izakaya for evening drinks and snacks in Shinjuku? A place were we could lounge around for a while and not feel we are hogging seats after a long day of wandering and maybe a nice selection of local beverages (sake, shochu, whisky, or beer, we are equal opportunity). Again, some place more likely to speak english if they have a good sake or shochu selection or a more diverse and interesting menu, so we can ask questions and learn.
Thanks so much for any help. I hope I am not coming off as a travel wimp looking avoid challenges by seeking hotel bars and tourist restaurant. I am sure we will have plenty of experiences navigating Japanese menus and ticket machines with no English help, but it would be great to be able to have a couple experiences where we can converse with a chef, bartender, or server and have a learning experience. On a longer trip it would be inevitable to stumble on those type of conversations, but for such a short trip I feel I will need to be more proactive in seeking them out. I know so little about Japanesse food and culture, and there is so much to learn that I will not get out of the books I have been reading to prepare.
Any other advice along the same lines of experiencing the culture would also be appreciated as well. We are thinking of doing a day with a goodwill guide too.
THANKS! And sorry for such a long rambling post.