R H Forschners are decent knives at a great price. As the low end of acceptable cutlery they're probably not a great choice for a gift. Also, the Rosewood series which are identical other than the handle, are much nicer than the Fibrox.
It's hard to advise you without knowing if and how well your dad sharpens. I'd hate to have you spend a lot of money on something that will end up dull in a few months and stay that way forever. When you get into better knives, you no only lose value by not keeping them sharp but also sharpening to them a fair degree of polish.
Generally, the knife world isn't divided into knives which are easy and difficult to sharpen. Rather, some won't take an edge well and some will. Yes, some alloys are easier to sharpen than others -- but most are pretty much the same. And I promise to let you know about anything that's difficult or even has a bad reputation.
If sharpening isn't somethng that's part of his life yet, maybe better to give some sort of spiffy sharpening kit like an Edge Pro Apex, or a top of the line Chef's Choice machine; plus, perhaps a really good "steel" (at least those are inexpensive).
If he does sharpen well, has the tools to do it, and you're going to buy a knife it may help you to consider that there are so many choices, there's no one best knife in the world -- not even one best knife for any one person. The art to buying a knife involves using your brain to limit the choices to the very good, then choosing by appearance, emotionally and/or randomly.
Price is one of the rational distinctions. There are a lot of really wonderful, 10" knives at around $150. Also, if he knows how to freehand sharpen on bench stone, that price range gives you just enough room to buy a decent combination waterstone and still come close to budget.
If you're comfortable in that price range, let's explore it a bit.
One of the great divisions in the world of kitchen knives is between German and French/Japanese type knives. Some very good "German" knives are made outside Germany, including in the U.S. The French make some very interesting carbon (i.e., non-stainless) knives, but by and large the best of the type are made in Japan.
Assuming we're (rationally) limiting your choices to stainless, I prefer Japanese made knives over German, because they are lighter, get much sharper, hold their edges much better, and (the chef's knives) are made with a "French profile" which is not only more agile, but itself favors sharpness over power and doesn't require rocking the handle as high or low.
For most good cutters, sharpness is by far the most important consideration. "Profile," usually next. "Balance," especially takes a back seat. "Heft" is something which is (again, for most good cutters) actually a negative. Part of being a good cutter is having a good grip; good grip's tend to be very adaptable; consequently handle size and shape tend to be less important.
But each of those carries an "on the other hand." Many cooks with great knife skills value one or more of those characteristics very highly, and/or include some others it didn't even seem worth it to me to mention. There are some other "on the other hands," to think about as well. One of which we've already touched on. A Japanese knife might require sharpening equipment he doesn't have.
Although at the end of the day one or the other might turn out to be a good choice, I urge you to stay away from Shun and Global.
The chef's knife I end up recommending most often is the 9-1/2" MAC Pro. It's a Japanese knife. It has very good edge characteristics, can be made very sharp (probably sharper than Dad will ever get it), sharpens easily, and maintains easily. It has a very good -- but not great -- profile. It has a great handle, perhaps the most universally liked handle of any knife ever made. Fit and finish are usually very good -- not always the case -- and if there's a problem, support is truly excellent. It also has a great guarantee, which is not very common in Japanese knives. It is extremely stiff as Japanese knives go. When you combine it's handle, profile, and stiffness it's probably the most Western "feeling" of any Japanese knife.
That's a lot to absorb.
Please get back to us with any thoughts you have about all this and with any information which may help us narrow all this down. For instance, Dad may really love the German type knives so it's a waste of time and words blathering on about Japanese knives.
Hope the helps,
PS. In the interests of full disclosure, nearly all of my own knives are old or antique French carbons made by one Sabatier or another, and a knife of their type might be very nice for your father -- if he can live with carbon's neediness. My newest "go to" is a Japanese handled, semi-stainless "laser," which is almost certainly the wrong kind of knife for Dad.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 11/1/10 at 8:44am