Presentation of kaiseki dishes is guided by Japanese aesthetics. Kaiseki is sophisticated cuisine. The only comparison is French Haute cuisine ("high food").
There's no formula for kaiseki. Each kaiseki meal is the creation of a master chef. Courses are categorized according to preparation method. Common courses include:
Sakizuke (先付)An appetizer (often a bite-sized hors d’œuvre).
Hassun (八寸)The second course that sets the theme of the meal. Includes several small side dishes.
Mukozuke (向付)Seasonal sashimi.
Takiawase (煮合)Vegetables served with fish, meat, or tofu.
Futamono (蓋物)A small dish served in a container with a lid. Often a soup.
Yakimono (焼物)Grilled seasonal fish.
Suzakana (酢肴)A small dish (vinegar based) to clean the palate.
Nakachoko (酢肴)A small acidic soup used to clean the palate.
Shiizakana (強肴)Usually a hot pot dish.
Gohan (御飯)Rice with seasonal ingredients.
Kou no mono (香の物)Seasonal pickles.
Tomewan (止椀)A basic offering of rice and miso soup. Served at the end to make sure that you're not still hungry. People often don't eat this course. Kaiseki tends to be filling.
Mizumono (水物)A small desert of fruit, confection or cake.
PriceKaiseki meals often run 15,000 ~ 40,000 yen (180 ~ 480 USD) per person not including drinks.
Inexpensive Varieties of KaisekiKaiseki restaurants often offer a lunch at a heavy discount to dinner. Kaiseki lunch may cost 3,000 ~ 10,000 yen per person.
Kaiseki bento are also available as some restaurants. They cost 3,000 ~ 6,000 yen.
Cheaper kaiseki restaurants also exist. The main difference is that they don't offer a private room and the food comes all at once in boxes rather than served one by one. Such restaurants generally cost 8,000 ~ 15,000 per person.
Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inns) often include breakfast and a kaiseki dinner with your stay. Such ryokan are by no means cheap. However, this sometimes represents an excellent value (especially for off season travel).
Ryokan are a recommended travel experience.