Personally I don't like Google's contact manager -- I preferred the prior approach. Still, it really does make sense for Google to have Contacts as a distinct service. They're used for more than email.
Here's how to see your contacts in their own page. This would look particularly good in chrome-less Chrome:
Google has recently updated the stand-alone contacts page by adding a logo and a more prominent search box. Unfortunately, the URL is not user-friendly: http://mail.google.com/mail/contacts/ui/ContactManager.