JapanRestaurant.net – when you need a new place to eat

It’s a scene as timeless as dinner itself. You, and perhaps the family, don’t feel like making dinner. At the same time, your regular stand-by restaurant you usually frequent has already stood by the past few weeks and is not an option. You want to eat someplace new, someplace different… but where?

Should you come across this culinary quagmire in Japan, you have an option besides crossing your fingers as you go out and hoping you find someplace you’ll like. Instead, turn to JapanRestaurant.net, a restaurant review website that opened its electronic doors just this year. The site is a sort of Facebook for restaurants, allowing restaurants in Japan to have “profiles” on the website. The website then allows various traits to be ascribed to each profile, such as cost, cuisine, suitability for families, etc. Owners can also upload pictures of items on the menu, as well as images of the restaurant, etc.

Placing all of this information at your fingertips is a handy search engine that skims through the databases and selects restaurants based on the various options you can select to customize your search. Looking for a nice evening for two? Select the “couple” setting to bring up restaurants that feature intimate settings. Not wanting to spend more than ¥3,000 on tonight’s dinner? The search engine narrows your search results down to more affordable restaurants. Pining (as I often do) for some Italian fare? The search engine can sort out only the restaurants with a taste of Italia, giving you a more relevant listing to peruse. Of course, you can also specify a location, such as Ginza or Kawasaki. The customization options are endless with the literally thousands of requirement combinations you can feed the website

Unfortunately, some extended (and not so extended) use of this search engine will reveal the website’s biggest downfall – many searches return no results at all. A simple search for a Tokyo Italian restaurant in the moderate price range (¥3,000 to ¥5,000) that is good for a date for two yields no results – and I can think of three or four such establishments off the top of my head. Similar searches of equal simplicity also produce no suggestions. At this point, not enough restaurants have created profiles on the website to truly showcase the capabilities of the search engine.

This is through no fault of the website or its creators, however. Since the site was started not even a year ago, I’m willing to ignore this shortfall. To expect an inclusive index of all the restaurants in Japan within a year of startup is like pouring the batter for a crepe and expecting it to be done within seconds. As the months go on, and hopefully more restaurants create profiles through JapanRestaurant, you’ll see less and less of the dreaded “no results” page.

Despite this recent startup, the website still features a bounteous amount of cuisines for you to choose from. Even a search for obscure, meat-filled Scandinavian fare yields a result, which is a feat considering the elusiveness of such a repast. Inversely, if you seek a vegetarian menu that is free of meat, you’ll find a search option that allows you to hunt for just that. If it is the succulent, nuanced flavors of Yakitori chicken you crave, the search engine caters to this as well. The delicately herbed dishes of France have an impressive representation in the database, as do the timeless and mouth-watering classics of Italy. It was this that impressed me the most about the website – the diversity of existing choices as well as the ability to fine-tune the search engine to very specific cuisines.

All and in all, Japanrestaurant.net is excellent site that has gotten off to a rather good start. With an intuitive interface and an excellent concept, the website is in need of only one additional ingredient – time. Give it a year or two, and you’ll find it one of the most useful tools for your next gastronomic adventure.

Ciao,
Sergio

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~ by Japan Blog Review on August 8, 2010.

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