[Kyoto] Hyotei 瓢亭 - 3* Kaiseki That Brings You Back in Time

Rating: ❤❤❤❤❤

The next day, we had a kaiseki lunch at 3* Hyotei which turned out to be the highlight of our short trip to Kyoto this time! The restaurant was founded as a tea shop serving travelers who were on their way to the Nanzenji temple more than 400 years ago and they are most famous for their tamago (soft-boiled eggs) which were seen as a rare and luxurious item back then. For lunch, we had the choice of ¥23000, ¥27000 and ¥32000 and we opted for the menu in the middle of the price range. If you want to try their famous tamago without going for the full lunch, Hyotei also serves breakfast in an adjacent building which starts from ¥4500. 

Upon our arrival, we were led through a picturesque garden to our own private tatami room with a sliding door that opened up into the garden. Each of the rooms were independently built which had been carefully preserved and I certainly felt like I was stepping back in time as I was enjoying my lunch in the rustic tea room. The decor may not be the most luxurious but it was certainly an unique experience to dine in the same environment as those who were visiting Nanzenji hundreds of years ago.

A detailed written menu in both Japanese and English was provided which really saved me the trouble of having to frantically take notes during the meal. The food turned out to be amazing and impressive with ingredients that were skillfully paired together and flavors that were very well-balanced.

[Sakizuke] Bud potato, quail and Japanese parsley with black sesame sauce

[Mukozuke] Sashimi of Tai (red sea bream) from Akashi with soy sauce, new style soy sauce made with tomato, suizenji laver (seaweed), water pepper and wasabi. The sashimi was really fresh and it was interesting to try the soy sauce made with tomato. 

White Miso Soup with lotus roots cake, nameko mushroom and mustard

[Hassun] Hyotei Tamago, sushi of sea bream with pickled sliced radish, ginger root, dried mullet roe, aomi daikon (Japanese radish) preserved in miso and kuwai chips

The highlight of this dish was certainly the famous Hyotei Tamago (traditional soft-boiled eggs) which were offered to travelers on their way to Nanzenji temple. Simple and yet so flavorful, I can see why people from all over the world want to try this tamago.

[Shiizakana] Matsubagani (snow crab), grilled soft roe and leek, thick starchy sauce with turnip and yuzu. I was surprised to find a creamy cod roe which looked a lot like shirako (cod milt) underneath the mountain of snowy turnip sauce.

[Takiawase] Fried taro with rice powder dressed with thick starchy special sauce made from Japanese blue crab, Iwatake mushroom, edible chrysanthemum and ginkgo nut. This was surprisingly my favorite dish of all as the taro had been skillfully fried with a very crunchy exterior and a soft creamy center. 

[Yakimono] Charcoal grilled butterfish marinated with special yuzu miso sauce and marinated vinegar turnip (shaped like chrysanthemum flower)

[Nimono] Rice with lotus roots, scallops and propagule served with konomono (pickles)

Sea urchin covered with tile fish, yuba, stem lettuce, carrot and wasabi. This dumpling was every bit as mouth-watering as it looked. 

We were then served tea before moving onto desserts. It was interesting that they have differently-sized cups for males and females (obviously J got the bigger one while I got the smaller one).

[Mizumono] Seasonal fruits with persimmon and pear which were amazingly fresh and insanely sweet. 

[Omogashi] Principal sweet. This one was much easier to eat compared to the one at Kichisen as you can cut through the dessert easily with the wooden stick. 

[Usu-cha] Green tea which signified the end of our meal. 

We really enjoyed our meal at Hyotei and I'd highly recommend it to those who want to experience elegant and exquisite kaiseki cuisine in a traditional setting!

Hyotei 瓢亭

35 Nanzenji Kusagawacho Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
京都府 京都市左京区 南禅寺草川町 35
Tel: +81-75-771-4116

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