funny that your hotel concierge won't do it. sadly, no english at either sawada or saito.
Saito is semi-complicated, you need to call on the 1st of the month prior.
for example, if you wanted a november reservation, you need to call on October 1st.
Saito was 22K,
if you don't call on the 1st @ Saito, it's real hard to get a single spot (let alone two seats).
All the high end places warn you that if you don't show up, your credit card will be dinged for the full meal. So maybe that's why your hotel concirege doesn't want to get involved.
After an insane six day drive throughout the tohoku prefecture and 3 abysmal days in Kyoto, came the vacation part of my trip.. seven days in tokyo. the only two restaurants i had prebooked months ahead was Sushi Saito & Dons de la Nature. The rest i was going to wing it the day before.
Day 1: Lunch at Michiba. His continual mastery and creative approach was everywhere. in the dish with 4 seasonal appetizers, the tour de force was a solitary deep fried grape. beyond poetry on the tongue for it's power & simplicity... and for people who enjoy watching chefs prepare the epic plates, Michiba's staff has a youtube channel youtube.com/geeecam
the english menu can be found on http://www.kaishoku-michiba.jp/info_en/index.html
Day 2: Lunch @ Sushi Saito. Good thing i had pics of the parking lot
or else i'd never had found the place. and what luck! they asked if i wanted the dinner course? Everybody ordered the dinner course. and i can't blame them, it's impossible to get a spot unless you call the first hour on the first of the month the month before, so it's nice that he offers the full omakase at lunch. Magical tour de force, his fish is on par with Sawada. Saito was kind enough for the two people that arrived fifteen minutes late, that he still started their meal at the beginning. I had only seen sushi chefs prepare all things at the same time, never that they'd start the course and then restart for those late.. Good cooking skills to keep everything rolling smoothly.
Day 3. Dinner at A511 in akasaka (where my hotel was). Akasaka has plenty of star chef power (kikuoni, iron chef kinichi,etc) A511 was a worthy stop. At first, i was skeptical of tiny slices of Kobe but the chef knows what he is doing.. It's not the same magical experience as 400g steak from Don De la Nature but it's a creative culinary feast for only 15,000 yen instead of 32,000 yen. The best dish was two slices of kobe boiled in an egg.
Day 4: Hagen Dazs distributor: Sawada. in 2010, it was the best meal of my life. naturally, i wanted to come back-- not to mention i could compare against Saito.. The problem is, Saito & Sawada have the best fish tokyo has to offer but do it at different price points. You don't get exactly the same meal. Sawada brings out jaw dropping portions on certain things: like his 12" + rainbow tail shrimp or the uni. it's a different experience to have that huge shrimp on your tongue compared to the places that only bring out six inch tiger prawn. Even if prepared by Saito.
Sawada reached out for his prep bowl of uni, the peices were so huge, that everybody stopped talking in anticipation when he started to spoon out onto his work area. i softly said "ICE CREAM OF THE SEA" to the person beside me. Sawada proudly points to the uni and shouts "HAGEN DAZS!" Room breaks out laughing... I was the only gaijin in the room that night. Sawada was chatty and into it with everybody. much better vibe than in 2010 when the room was all gaijin.
It's a privilege to eat at either Saito or Sawada (even Mitzutani). Nobody should be comparing it based just on the Yen. And like others have said, if you can't get into Saito or Sawada, try for Mitzutani. my first tokyo sushi was mitzutani. his rice is phenomenal but Sawada or Saito: it's like fish from another planet. i don't know how it can be that good. considering how good any fish from Tsukiji is..
Day 5: Horumon @ Saisei Sakaba in Shinjuku. I was pleasantly surprised. Tastier than i expected. i had rectum, tounge, bacon, traccea in the first five dishes.. Then i asked for female parts to which the chef said he was all out. DANG! how can i call myself a foodie if i don't know the difference between birthing canal or uterus. *sob* but i had another 3 sticks and can heartily recommend the place. If it wasn't for the intense heat from the grill, when tokyo was already in a heatwave, probably would have sampled more.
Day 6: breakfast: Pierre Hermes at his Aoyoma shop. In 2010, i never thought of hitting the choclatiers. Started with fruit ministrone dish with ice cold choclate drink & deux millefeuille. unbeleivable. now i know why people also make the pilgrammage for choclate & pastries. i just asked the waiter for the menu.. If i wasn't a diabetic, i'da eaten everything else on the menu.
Day 7: farewell dinner at Dons De La Nature.. in 2010, i was so impressed, i made a second reservation so i could sample the shoulder cut that they offer.. Kobe is so tasty, it's next to impossible to eat two steaks in one night. This was a meal that was even better than in 2010. The chef ages his beef for two months before it enters the charcoal oven.. it's the best 42,000 yen anybody can ever spend. Also, i tried to order the 500 gram steak, it was too much.. 400g is really the perfect serving.
if it wasn't for bad timming, i didn't know Sep 17th was a holiday, i would have been able to get into Kodama, Kikunoi, or Isgen but my wallet took a breather.. Besides, have to leave some restaurants for 2015 ;)
Omakase, full course kaiseki is only possible with reservation. i made my reservation at lunch time for dinner. i'll speculate that walk in is possible for lunch but dinner is too risky. The restaurant is really, really off the beaten path smack in the middle of suburbian residential block, so if nobody else is there after 5:30pm, i don't see why the restaurant would stay open. Last order for dinner is 6:30.
I shoulda known my 3 days in Kyoto were destined for the abyss, when the i tried to book a table the month before at KICHISEN and was informed they were on vacation the week i was passing through. doh!
loosing rental iphone & torturous walk to Mt. Hiei temple aside, the two culinary highlights that salvaged Kyoto for me was GOTARO & SOSOAN.
What a tasty concept: hot pot soup. it was worth the 4,200 yen for a soup. previously i had only seen 12" schrimp with rainbow tail at Sushi Sawada's, so i knew the soup would be good. a little off putting when the waitress should me the shrimp was still alive and she had to drown in the pot with chopsticks for a minute so that it wouldn't thrash about & make mess but that killer shrimp was tasty, so all was forgiven.
my hotel (the screen) had served a decent kaiseki breakfast, where the boiled tofu really stood out, so i was really determined to find a good tofu place... furthur bad luck, that Tōsuirō was unavailable my last day, i went to SOSOAN after reading this
And until you drag your butt to Kyoto, you'll never know how powerful & tasty tofu can be.
Although i was served seven different dishes than depicted on that page, it was pure artistry. One dish, where tofu is made in sheet ribbon form but served rolled up, when it sat on my tongue. i could feel complex interaction between the sheets touching each other--as if the orchestra was warming up-- i've only had that kind of elemental food experience 3 other times. i was surprised that it came from something as simple as tofu.
What they say about kyoto tofu is all true, it simply is the best.
When i find the strength, i'll toss in my two cents regarding tokyo portion (Saito, Sawada, Dons de Nature, A511, Michiba). Sawada is a very funny man!
The place you are describing sounds like furofushi...
i hope to be soakin in furofushi in 9 days if the rental car makes it that far up the coast.
on a previous trip, i used the services of ryokancollection.com. I found it to be same price as trying to book directly through a particular ryokan's website.. YMMV.