Tokyo, Japan: Wonderfully Whimsical Kaiseki at Den

Sagayu Beef Bowl

There’s something comforting, even relieving, about a 10-seat Kaiseki experience in Tokyo with an especially irreverent presence behind each course, each with unparalleled attention to detail. But that is Jimbocho Den, the brainchild of mid-30’s, owner-chef Zaiyu Hasagawa, whose wry sense of humor delightfully pervades every refined dish.

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Niseko, Japan: Outstanding Kaiseki at Sobatei Rakuichi

Soba Master and Owner of Rakuichi

We were closing out an epic week of snowboarding and skiing some serious powder in Niseko, Japan, when on our last night we visited Rakuichi, the 12-seat kaiseki restaurant at the foot of Annupuri resort. During lunchtime, I hear Tatsuru and Midori RaiĀ have quite a queue as they keep service strictly to soba. While absolutely every plate was pristinely and passionately prepared, soba was definitely the centerpiece of our multi-course dinner.

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Avalon of Catalina Island, CA: Highlights of a Weekend Trip

View from Casino Ballroom Balcony

Before this year, I had been to Santa Catalina Island but once for a short day trip that hardly did the 22 x 8 mile island justice. It’s easy to dismiss, with just one incorporated city named Avalon – but the trick to a successful trip here is navigating the proper spots to hit up, and when.

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Half Moon Bay, CA: Navio at The Ritz-Carlton

Fennel Pollen Crusted Mero Sea Bass

When you visit an outpost of such a well-renowned hotel entity as the Ritz-Carlton, its flagship restaurant has plenty to live up to. And with a location and view right on the shore at Half Moon Bay, the food better be a match to its scenery and splendor. Navio lives up to the task thanks to Chef Sean Eastwood’s imaginative dishes with ingredients sourced from nearby markets, but this is the Ritz-Carlton, and they have come to expect a certain clientele that can afford the high-end ticket – the kind of clientele that also subscribe to the mantra of “location, location, location.” With that: Scenery.

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