Very Creative Lunch at 1* Michelin Restaurant David Toutain (Paris, France)
I respect the European and most of the Asian cities’ Michelin guides for a long time after my numerous dining experiences when I travel abroad. My traveling companion on this trip was largely a skeptic with the mentioned red book and I understand his point of view given the fact that New York City’s ratings are mostly wonky. I won’t discuss about my qualms on the NYC Michelin ratings here but the point is, since this was our first Michelin restaurant in Paris we’ve dined together was at Restaurant David Toutain, it started to make him believe in the Michelin guide again (at least on the France side).
Chef David Toutain made his name from L’Arpege and Agapé Substance. His style of food is sleek, cerebral cooking, and respect for quality ingredients. All set in a polished yet rustic setting from the restaurant’s decor all the way to the bowls, dishes and bread basket served to you, serves as a reflection of the memories of his grandparents’ farm and time under Alain Passard’s tutelage (at L’Arpege) mean that he takes vegetables seriously, notably in dishes like eggplant and lamb.
We started off with a flurry of colorful and beautiful snacks from the kitchen. The first bite-size tarragon and herb financiers topped with a tiny swirl of creamy cheese and trout roe was a good start of cool, slightly briny roe meets the buttery, slightly herbaceous cake as the vehicle. The delicate tube of blackberry filled with thick, earthy sweet, beet purée and pickles was an eye-opening experience of having the combination of earthy sweetness and tart sweetness with varying textures of creamy, light and delicately brittle. The dainty potato puffs were tasty little air puffs that were surprisingly flavorful with the cumin infused in the puff as well as being set in a bowl of cumin flowers.
The first course of egg, young garlic, verbena arrived in this beautiful, delicate white ceramic bowl covered with its cover to abstractly mimic something found in a forest and it reveals a minimalist yet vibrantly colored plating of the mentioned. The egg yolk was beautifully yolk-y and meshed with the vibrant green garlic oil, squid “pasta” and verbena foam to literally lighten up this dish. The pairing of the Domaine Vincent Pinard Sancerre ‘Nuance’ was a good one – young and minerally, dry white with lovely rich green apple and pear flavors.
The tomato, raspberry, ketchup course was unexpected due to the use of housemade ketchup that was intentionally swathed on the edge of our bowl. The ketchup does make sense in this dish uniting the sweet-tart flavors of the raspberry and tomatoes (tomato water-gel and chunks of ripe heirlooms).
The risotto of green beans, onion, and Jabugo ham was delicious. Though I wouldn’t call the beans a risotto, they were perfectly cooked and had a creamy, buttery sauce that coated the finely chopped, sweet beans. The small petals of onions and finely diced ham were a classic pairing. Our glass of Domaine de l’Hortus ‘Grande Cuvée’ blanc was a very good pairing, as it tasted like high end Chardonnay. Beautiful notes of pineapple, citrus blossom, honeysuckle and white flower nuances, all of which are framed nicely by serious flinty minerality that comes through more on the palate.
The cod, zucchini, and sweet clover was definitely an expression of the quality of the ingredients. The cod was simply and expertly poached and set on swirls of vegetally sweet, bright green purée of clover and small chunks of sweet zucchini. The pairing of Alain Gras Saint-Romain Blanc 2014 was a Chardonnay vintage that has a liveliness and a freshness that works perfectly with the cod. Citrus-y and pineapple aromas enhanced with a light woodiness.
Our sommelier gave us a “surprise” glass of a sweet, still hard cider (I don’t know what it was since he hasn’t shown us the bottle) before our course of smoked eel and black sesame came out. The cider itself was almost sticky sweet with intense apple aromas. This pairing was unexpected and fantastic. The smoked eel has its tactile sweetness on the palate and the pool of black sesame puree was intensely nutty and lends itself to apples.
The lamb, eggplant topped with crispy quinoa, tamarind, eggplant sauce was incredible. The lamb was perfectly cooked to a pink medium-rare and it’s tender. The eggplant was a smart idea to mimic the texture of meat but have the toothsome texture from the quinoa. The tamarind and eggplant sauce were deeply flavored and works great for both the lamb and the eggplant. My friend was loving the wine for Domaine Bernard Gripa Saint-Joseph 2014 Syrah. It’s a fairly rich and sleek, medium-bodied wine with a bit of freshness and balance. Not that weighty but there are enough tannins to give some structure.
Our desserts were paired with a lovely, not too saccharine sweet, G.D. Vajra Aldo Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2015, as I find most moscatos tend to be. The minimalist, white-on-beige colored pre-dessert of cauliflower, white chocolate, and coconut milk was incredible. I never would have thought of having cauliflower for dessert and the sweetness of the white chocolate was controlled. The airy, creamy cauliflower-white chocolate soup was heavily flecked with vanilla bean and the quenelle of coconut milk ice cream was a brilliant idea to enhance the subtle flavors of each ingredient.
The first dessert of a frozen bread ice cream sandwich does not look like much at first glance. The heavy, dark stone bowl with a small scoop of whipped cream and a thin ice cream sandwich made of a delicate toast, sandwiching the slice of yeast ice cream. This dessert was also fantastic for something relatively simply plated but the flavors have a lot of impact. Loads of yeasty, toasted bread flavors with a touch of cream to lighten things up. This is the kind of dessert you’d have to eat with your fingers and a lot more fun.
Peach, pistachios and basil oil is a beautiful collage of finely diced white peaches, quenelles of peach sorbet set in a small pool of vibrant basil oil. All of this in one bite creates a beautiful symphony of sweet peach enhanced further with the fresh hit of basil.
To end our meal, we had a stick of cold, smoky chocolate set impaled on a wooden stick and delicate, white rice crisp topped with fresh currants and elderflowers. The latter was a unique combination of tartness and sweet and floral. A great ending to a thrilling meal.
Service here was attentive but not pushy. The decor is warm but has this polished rustic appeal that makes it so striking.
For more photos of this visit, please CLICK HERE for the complete set or see below:
Restaurant David Toutain
29 Rue Surcouf
75007 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 45 50 11 10