Chef Shinya Maeda’s worked with some of gastronomy’s biggest names: Marco Pierre White, Marcus Samuelsson, and Gordon Ramsay. After having worked abroad, he returned to Tokyo, and ran Ramsay’s restaurant at the Conrad. Five years later, Maeda was given a new challenge, which would allow him to express his own culinary ideas: Collage
The dining room at Collage is captivating. High ceilings, white walls, an open kitchen, and a feeling of space that is very unusual for Tokyo make it a modern, luxurious room that stands out for its beautiful, effortless design. The service here is faultless, and the wine list offers exciting selections even by the glass.
But most guests will ultimately come for the food. Anyone expecting classical dishes in the style of Maeda’s mentor Gordon Ramsay will be surprised. Not because of odd combinations, or overly showy food, but because Maeda serves dishes that heavily use modern techniques, and are very complex. This is clearly the cooking of someone who wants to push things forward.
One of the more complex dishes is a foie gras, and rhubarb combination. The liver is served with various textures of rhubarb that result in a dish seems to focus more on various preparations of rhubarb than the liver. That he also knows when to step back and let the ingredient talk is shown by amadai, served with its crispy scales, a spice mix developed by Maeda, hamaguri clam, and an intensely flavoured tomato sauce. This is a beautiful summer dish: the richly flavoured tomato sauce has just enough power to complement the fish, without overpowering it, whilst the spices placed on the side add a layer of complexity to the dish. The fish itself is cooked beautifully, with perfectly crisp scales, and meat that is succulent, and juicy.
A plate that is even more impressive, and focused, is baby squid that are smoked, and served with a mayonnaise, and crispy fried thin pasta. This study in black does not only look impressive, but simply shows that a very precise chef such as Maeda can create wonderful food in combination with high quality produce. The squid is smoked just for the right amount of time, thus not dominated by it. With a delicate bite to it, the meat is a wonderful contrast to the crunchy component, and the creamy mayonnaise.
Collage is a restaurant that is a little different from many French restaurants in Tokyo. It benefits from a remarkably beautiful dining room, and a very precise, technique-driven chef. Whilst some of the dishes feel like the dexterity of the kitchen is highlighted more than the product, this is clearly a restaurant that is already delivering beautiful food, and will certainly only get better and better.