"[QUOTE]All just my opinion, but I think most who have been in your shoes in the past would agree:
I really think it is beneficial to get a less expensive, but amazing performing knife off the bat and spend the rest of your money on sharpening/up-keep equipment. Being able to put an edge on a knife and maintain it is far more important that buying a more expensive one...can't stress this enough.
You can get a 240 CarboNext gyuto from JCK for under $150 with shipping, and if properly sharpened, it can perform as well as knives 5X the price. You may even be able to get a used one from a forum member for even cheaper, and they can put a great edge on for you that will blow your mind (although I love mine, I've thought about selling to a newbie for this particular reason, so maybe I will consider)
Spend the rest of your budget on a stone(s) and maybe a strop and take the time to learn to sharpen...it is fun and really rewarding once you get proficient at it. After you gain experience on both fronts, you will be much better educated to know what you really want/need in a knife. Konosuke and other super-thin knives are my favorite and fit my cutting style well, yet other people like a mightier knife with more weight behind the cut...I like flat profiles, yet other people like a bit more belly to suit their needs...etc, etc. Everyone is different, so it is hard to make recommendations with very general information./QUOTE]
+1... Well put and couldn't agree more.
Looks like a few people have recommended the JCK Carbonext 240 Gyuto. I can definitely handle learning how to sharpen after some reading and advice around these parts. I'm mechanically inclined and have sharpened pocket knives on stones back in boy scouts (does that count!?).
Thanks for the input folks! Would love to hear any more opinions if they're out there.