I had previously eaten at Hyotei before, for their “asagayu” porridge breakfast. I thought it was excellent and a great intro to their excellent cooking. However, I had always been reluctant to go back for the whole shebang. It’s because Hyotei is like the Rodney Dangerfield of kaiseki, in that they get no respect - there’s no shortage of lukewarm reviews on the Internet. In fact, I think @J_L had what seemed like a mediocre meal there many years back based on his CH post. However, given my positive experience at breakfast the Hyotei Annex few years back, I approached the meal with some excitement but also some apprehension that it would be a disappointment. I am pleased to report that, for us, the meal was excellent. 15th generation chef Yoshihiro Takahashi seems to be trying to stay with all the traditions that have made Hyotei famous while trying to modernize on the margins.
The entrance to Hyotei in the evening; this used to be a stopover for pilgrims on their way to Nanzenji temple
The menu - I’d read reviews from several years ago that they would explain everything to you in Japanese and not give a whit whether you understood any of it. That seems to have changed, with this concession to tourists:
The initial course of the Sakizuke with fresh veggies and fruits with sesame sauce was non extraordinary, but to be fair, I think it served as a palate cleanser.
Mukozuke: the meal improved with a hurry - some chewy tai sashimi with their house made tomato soy sauce
…And then reached a bang with white miso soup with lotus root cake - the white miso soup was rich with flavor yet not heavy, and the lotus root cake was perfectly chewy
The Hassun: This was the second time that I’d had the famous Hyotei eggs, and for me, they’re overrated. But that didn’t detract from the rest of the meal
The takiawase - deep fried taro root with rice powder, was absolutely crave worthy; the batter was light with no oilyness, the taro was rich and flavorful, and the duck was perfectly cooked - tender without being bland
The yakimono - charcoal grilled barracuda - I didn’t think this was all that great, but my dining companions loved it
Nimonowan - Wow!! Soup with a tilefish dumpling with uni inside, with kyoyasai (Kyoto vegetables)
Rice with scallop, maitake mushroom & shimeji mushroom with pickles
Mizumono - seasonal fruits, including persimmon
Omogashi (moist sweet)
I would say that the meal was restrained yet delicious, and there were some very crave-worthy dishes. I would absolutely return for a full kaiseki meal there, but I would also highly recommend others to go for breakfast or for their bento lunch, which is much more accessible financially and less of a time commitment. I’ve read about cold service - the servers explained things well to us, and they spoke pretty good English. The okami-san also came by at the end, and she was quite warm.