Synonymous with traditional Kyoto-style cuisine, Hyotei has an astonishing 450-year-long history in the ancient capital. The current owner and head chef is Yoshihiro Takahashi, who is the 15th generation in line, and the force behind this new branch at Tokyo Midtown Hibiya.
This being downtown Hibiya, you may not expect the same tranquility you’d get at the original Hyotei, near the namesake Nanzenji Temple in eastern Kyoto. Yet they’ve done a great job at replicating the traditional calm: before entering the restaurant, you’ll be led along a winding corridor which shuts out the buzz of the surrounding buildings and shoppers. Once inside, there’s tatami on the counter, light bamboo and minimal furnishings. The one concession to modernity is the choice of tables rather than tatami seating, although there is a tea room.
Immaculately presented kaiseki cuisine takes centre stage. As with everything at Hyotei, tradition prevails, with their centuries-old staple, a perfect half-boiled egg, still on the menu. That doesn’t mean things are stale here – instead, there’s a sense of continuity. The cliché is very much true here: history is alive and well.