Showing posts with label king crab ballontine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label king crab ballontine. Show all posts

Collage (Tokyo)

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Address: 1-9-1 Higashi-Shinbashi, Minato (inside the Conrad Hotel on the 28th floor)
Type of Meal: Dinner

Located on the 28th floor of the Conrad Hotel, Collage offers soaring windows with an amazing view of Tokyo. Occupying the space of a former Gordon Ramsay restaurant, it also serves French creations but with a Japanese twist on account of Chef Shinya Maeda’s inspirations.

The interior dining space is a conservative mix of dark wood and cream linens with large but simplistic light fixtures. After settling into our plush chairs we decided on the “saison” tasting menu (¥15,000), the only one I’ve had that offers a bread pairing with each main dish.  I apologize as didn’t realize this happens until the third dish so didn’t take any pictures of the bread. As a carb lover I was in heaven - pretzel bread with the ballotine and tortellini, a fluffy squash water bread with the tilefish and a cocoa bun with the duck! What an interesting concept that I encourage other restaurants to adopt.

To begin a hot crunchy cheese croquette adorned with a cold dollop of smooth tangy ricotta. I love the beautiful dill imprinted into it and foreshadows the dishes to come – each carefully built to be a beautiful presentation.

Having had quite a bit of mackerel while visiting Japan, I wasn’t surprised to see a seared mackerel sashimi presented next. Disappointingly, it had a very fishy taste that could only be masked when eaten with the pickled peas (?) at the bottom. Luckily, it was a very small piece so with a couple of bites it was done.

After finishing the meal I’ve come to realize Chef Maeda likes to add a crunchy element to his dishes. Normally, I’m quite happy about this as the contrasting texture can work very well. But, as with all things, sometime it works and sometimes things should just be left alone. The king crab ballontine is an example of where I felt it didn’t work. Imagine… a succulent piece of crab wrapped in a delicate braised leek but then ruined with various crunchy bits that really add nothing to the dish. All the delicious natural sweetness of the crab and freshness in the leek gets lost when simplicity might have been better.  

Luckily, the tortellini was an improvement and affirms why Collage earned a Michelin star to begin with. The braised shredded lamb inside was spot on and wonderfully tender and flavourful. Although the pasta was a touch hard, after letting it sit in the au jus for a bit the dough soften up. But, it was the humble eggplant in the middle topped with crème fraiche that tied everything together so well, really brightening up what could have been a heavy dish.  

Up next was the cône de pin (translates into pinecone) tilefish, where the fish scales were crisped up to resemble a pinecone. The fish was cooked splendidly, flaking apart and tender, contrasting nicely with the crunchy fish scales. A thick red pepper bouillabaisse-like sauce added a great flavour to everything. The crunchy element in this dish was dried pieces of chorizo which I didn’t particularly like; but, at least it was on the side of the plate so could easily be left off depending on your preference.

The following dish had a lot of elements to it, all highlighting an ingredient I love – duck! Firstly, a perfectly cooked skinless duck breast topped with some undecipherable crunchy bits. In between were miniature duck confit tornado rolls, a rich take on spring rolls with a more gamey flavour. All this rests on a light and smooth foie gras sauce which went well with the meat. Some grains of barley sat around the dish as well soaking up all the delicious duck juices. Only the turnip sauce threw me off as I found some bites bitter and off putting.

Before dessert, a palate cleanser of sweet raspberry or pomegranate sorbet with pieces of a champagne (?) ice. It was nice and refreshing, especially after the heavier duck dish.

The first dessert was a beautifully risen chocolate soufflé and side of chestnut ice cream rolled in walnuts. The cake was perfectly fluffy with the edge toasted to let cocoa flavours out. Meanwhile, the ice cream was very cold and took a long time to melt enough so that my spoon could cut through it; personally, I prefer this as would rather the dessert not turn to mush as soon as the ice cream is placed into the soufflé. But, the best part was the chocolate pop rocks on the bottom of the ice cream which crackled as they melted in your mouth. I absolutely loved this dessert.       

In my view, I would have been perfectly happy ending on the soufflé high.  Surprisingly, another dessert arrived, this time a fruitier nougat parfait. Simply put, it was a creamy custard log covered with crunchy graham cracker bits. On top were some dots of bitter orange reduction which with the sweet custard wasn’t too bad. Beside the “nougat” was a delicious smooth cinnamon ice cream with thin meringue bits to contrast. All in all, a good dessert but nothing compared to the soufflé.   

Although the food wasn’t spectacular, it was nonetheless delicious and satisfying. I love the chic environment and traditional linen and silver service you’d expect from a French restaurant. Collage is a great venue for a long meal (ours lasted two and a half hours) with some special guests. Of course, its convenient location and spectacular views could also warrant a visit as well.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!