I don't have a ton of experience in the kitchen knife arena, but I will say that the Spyderco Santoku is AWESOME! I bought one about 6 months ago, and it is absolutely PERFECT, especially considering the price. It is stainless, of course, with a semi-soft plastic handle (not too hard, but it won't fall apart, either). The blade is perfect length (about 6 inches or so) and is really wide. The thing I like about the width is that I can flip the blade over and use the spine and side of the blade to scoop up veggies and stuff and transfer them to the bowl, pan, or whatever. Also, the knife comes REALLY sharp! The blade has nice belly, so you can use a rocker motion which allows for easy chopping and dicing. You can also get really finely chopped onions and others ala McDonald's hamburger style.
I honestly cannot say enough about this knife. The pattern is amazing, and you pair that with Spyderco quality and service, and you have an affordable knife that will do double duty in the kitchen big time. Spyderco also makes a paring knife and a chef's knife, I believe. I used to like the classic million-blade-in-a-set type thing for the kitchen, but my ideal set would now be higher quality and fewer blades.
I would never start a kitchen without Spyderco Santoku. Based on the wquality of all their knives, plus the fact that they have incredible service, I would assume their ither knives are really good in the kitchen, too. So, in addition to a Santoku, I would like to have two paring knives (one as a spare, and two in case two people want to help prepare dinner)...actually, maybe even three paring knives if the price is right. Add to this a serrated bread knife ( a must have) and possibly a serrated utility type knife, and that's all you need. A decent steel is a good idea, too, but only if the user knows what it is intended for and is serious about maintaingin their cutlery.
So, there you have it. Under $100 and you could have the whole shebang. Probably even less than that, actually. If you decide to go with Spyderco, do yourself a favor and order from Bruce Bullman at Bullmancutlery (http://www.bullmancutlery.com). He is great to do business with, and is a super nice guy who will take the time to lead you in the right direction. Lemme grab a catalog he sent me...
Henkel's makes a Santoku at $89 (ouch) or $93 (double ouch). Spyderco's lists at $40, but Bruce's Spydie prices are so low that he doesn't list them (you have to email him...email@example.com). The other Spydie knives are a serrated utility (6.5 " blade) at $35, the paring (4.5" blade) at $19, and a mini paring knife (2" blade) for $15. Ireally see nothing out of a bunch of pages here that you'd need on top of that. A good main knife (PLEASE get a Santoku), a few paring knives, a serrated utility, and a serrated bread. Got that?
BTW, I do not work or am I affilliated with Bullman Cutlery. I am a satisifed customer. Same goes for Spyderco, which I am SUPER satisfied with!