Like a trusted friend, Collectors Café never lets you down.
I had dinner with an old friend the other night: Collectors Café. After being sorely disappointed with a couple of recent dining experiences, there’s something to be said about an unwavering relationship that you can count on. Collectors Café has never let me down on any front—top-notch service, wonderful European-inspired cuisine, a warm and artsy atmosphere and never hitting me up for more money than seems fair.
Since opening in 1994, Collectors has copped a number of awards—even from Wine Spectator—and quickly became a destination darling, known as much for its fine dining as it is for late-night wine and coffee klatches and art showings. Yet, the vibe is unpretentious. Flip-flops are as common as wingtips and the mood can swing from a white linen table in the Greco-columned dining room to a sink-in sofa in a private lounge to a ceramic high-top around the hubbub of the open kitchen. Since I’ve never had a low-grade taste of anything at Collectors, let me impart some frank and friendly tidbits about the menu.
No lie, the scallop cakes are nearly addictive. Meaty and slightly sweet, they come poised in a pool of tomato-scallion-garlic-butter sauce. Better yet, the scallop cakes are offered as an appetizer as well as a main dish. And I’m hooked on the filet of beef carpaccio. Thin shavings of raw meat are accented by olive oil, spicy mustard and balsamic vinegar, then topped with a snowfall of fresh parmesan. Save a good amount of the complimentary warm artisan bread to enjoy with this oh-so-savory starter.
Two of my all-time favorite seafood dishes are stars of the Collectors menu. One is the yellow fin tuna, grilled rare and accompanied by a bright Oriental couscous salad with sesame oil, wasabi and pickled ginger. My other fave is the grilled salmon, firm but moist, dotted with sautéed wild mushrooms and plated with a puree of roasted garlic and cauliflower, a salad of baby spinach, olives, raisins and tomatoes, then sprinkled with toasted almonds. You may be thinking, “Big deal. Doesn’t almost every high-end place serve a version of rare tuna and grilled salmon?” My answer is simple: You really haven’t tasted the true beauty of the fish until you’ve had it prepared to its perfection. I have rarely had a pinch-me experience with either tuna or salmon elsewhere, but you can bank on it here.
Now, on the meat side of things, the grilled beef tenderloin is a must-have on my Collectors list. Not only because of the fork-tender meat, but the sauce hits every flavor chord with the sweet note of caramelized onion, a tang of Dijon mustard and the deeper tones of a brandied cream sauce. Turn the sauce into gravy by spooning a little on the garlic mashed potato side and it’s heaven on a plate.
Coffee and dessert are somewhat of a religion at Collectors.
It can be the sweet treat at dinner’s close or something enjoyed in Collectors’ popular Euro-style coffeehouse area, where you can wander in to have dessert any time.
To my taste, the crème brulee is Paris-worthy. And the multi-layered, creamy coconut cake is the one to share. But take it from me, you will regret giving up even one dreamy bite. It’s that good.
On a recent visit to Collectors, the French section of my gene pool called out for a newer menu selection—the seafood bouillabaisse. The aromatics of the steamy saffron-tomato-fennel broth took me back to childhood dinners with my aunt, who excelled at this traditional Provencal dish. Served in a wide-brimmed bowl, it was a mélange of white fish, mussels, shrimp, crab, circles of calamari, saffron rice and spicy rouille. Not to mention the crispy grilled points of ciabatta for dipping.
To also excite the visual senses, up to 25 artists are represented at any given time throughout Collectors, and each piece can be purchased right off the walls.
If you want a for-sure, no regrets, take-it-from-me place to eat or to just hang out with good wine and friends, Collectors Café won’t disappoint.
Collectors Café & Gallery
7740 N. Kings Hwy.
Open for lunch Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Open for dinner Monday through Saturday, 5:30–10:30 p.m.