Thomas Jones visits the China Blue restaurant at Conrad Hotel Tokyo.
I am not one of those people who expects the boss to be behind every plate that comes out of the kitchen for the same reason that I wouldn’t expect Giorgio Armani to be sewing my suits if I ever chose to buy one. No kitchen is an island, and no chef earns his stripes without a trusty crew, so when chef’s off spreading the word, or indeed overseeing the forging of an empire, it should always be business as usual. That said, when the chef is actually in the house and makes a trip to your table to say hello, the taste of the food gets ever so slightly better.
The chef in question is Albert Tse, and his restaurant is China Blue at the Conrad Hotel in Tokyo, a modern Chinese restaurant offering a different slant on one of the world’s most successful and popular cuisines. Since starting off at the bottom of the rung of a Hong Kong kitchen in 1979, Albert has climbed that greasy ladder one step at a time through many top-notch establishments in Hong Kong and Singapore, perfecting the cuisine of his homeland along the way, to helm China Blue and gain Michelin stars for the last five years running.
Chef Albert’s knowledge and his own creative impulses have led him down a whole new road of innovation, and the resulting dishes are a combination of the old and new techniques and ingredients in his repertoire, making a man unafraid to call himself a ‘fusion’ chef.
“I want to bring out the most natural essence in food and make full use of their colours and tastes to build up a most remarkable palette,” he says of his cooking. “I look forward to showing people that food can retain its most basic properties, yet look and taste spectacular, healthy, and tantalising.”Click to view slideshow.
He’s also a huge fan of nutrition and making sure that his ingredients offer the maximum goodness and taste for all the five senses. “Every dish has its own special benefiting traits to us if we, as chefs, know how to utilize both our skills and presentation aesthetics. We can not only entice the majority, but also allow them to be fully aware of how truly good the food is.”
The restaurant, his canvas, is a stunning venue approached down a narrow corridor punctuated by glass and black granite steps and blue lamps towering way overhead. Like Alice’s rabbit hole you know that something very interesting lies in wait at the end: and indeed, what unfolds upon turning the corner is a massive eight-metre high space filled with light and views of Tokyo Bay from its 28th floor vantage point.
The tables aren’t crammed in, giving diners lots of space and privacy under large, blue, hanging chandeliers over hardwood floors, while a wine cellar that can only be described as over-the-top towers to full ceiling height with over 2,500 bottles of joy within and three private dining rooms behind.
Simply put, Chef Albert’s talents for fusing the old and new in combination with the stunningly-designed space that will leave you feeling anything but blue.