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Restaurant David Toutain in Paris - 1 Michelin star

Rating: 91.
Rating index:
Extraordinary (96-100)
Outstanding (93-95)
Very good to Excellent (89-92)
Above average to Good (86-88)
Below Average to Average (80-85)
Avoid (below 80)
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Training with big name French chefs does set you up in the world of gastronomy and David Toutain (b.1981) trained with some of the very best, like Alain Passard, Pierre Gagnaire, Marc Veyrat, and Bernard Pacaud. Add to that two internships at Andoni Luis Aduriz' Mugaritz and Paul Liebrandt's Corton in New York City (now closed) and it will be of no surprise that when Toutain returned to Paris in 2011 to become head chef at the new Agape Substance, the restaurant was an instant hit with locals and critics alike, and considered one of the most important restaurant openings of the year. Agape Substance's success was short-lived however. David Toutain left the restaurant in December 2012 and it closed the following year. Toutain's personal success story continued though, because in December 2013 he opened his own place in Paris' 7th arrondissement and again the restaurant had a flash-start, named "the hottest new restaurant in Paris" by the New York Times the following month and fourteen months later it was awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 guide for France.

David Toutain is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday. At lunchtime you can choose between the set lunch menu 'Berce' (3 courses for €55) and three multi-course tasting menus. There's the menu 'Pensée' for €80, the menu 'Coquelicot' for €110 and the menu 'Reine des Prés' for €140. In the evening there's a choice of two menus, the aforementioned Coquelicot and Reine des Prés. I had lunch with my husband at Restaurant David Toutain in February 2018 and we both ordered the menu Coquelicot.

Lunch commenced with a selection of four appetisers, starting with a full-flavoured tender piece of salsify served with an airy parsnip and white chocolate dip. This was followed by a light tapioca cracker topped with a carabinero prawn tartare delicately seasoned with lime and green apple, and garnished with quinoa and hazelnuts. An intricate bite with lovely pure prawn flavours, enhanced by the lime. Best of all was a beautifully made crisp shallot cylinder with a superb creamy filling flavoured with pieces of raspberry and raw oyster. An exquisite riff on the classic oyster and mignonette combination, fresh and balanced, and I loved how the oyster kicked in right at the end for a fresh and mineral aftertaste.

Finally there was Toutain's signature egg: soft and runny egg yolk, topped with a smooth corn emulsion, and finished with cumin caramel. Egg, corn, and cumin, three ingredients that have great affinity for each other and they worked a treat, the cumin caramel providing a sweet and earthy spiciness.

First course of the menu Coquelicot was a celeriac risotto with a deliciously rich seasoning of Parmesan cheese, and garnished with thinly sliced fresh chestnut and toasted spelt. A very pleasing, characteristically creamy risotto, the celeriac having just the right texture, providing the all-important "bite" and the spelt delivering an attractive extra crunch. Flavourwise the celeriac performed a supporting role, however it took on the other flavours nicely. Overall the risotto delivered an intense flavour experience without becoming too heavy. 

Second course was a pristine piece of pearly white and tender cod, covered with a thin and delicately crisp piece of toast, and served with a nice and buttery citrus Hollandaise, and a mixture of baby leek and chopped walnuts topped with a lovage emulsion. A well-executed, refined dish with great flavours and textures. The lovage emulsion offered a herby complexity that complemented the cod wonderfully, and the citrus Hollandaise added the final touch, delivering acidity and touch of warm, buttery roundness. 

Next up was another one of David Toutain's signature dishes, one that was already featured on the menu of Agape Substance. A gloriously exuberant pairing of fatty grilled eel with a thick and concentrated black sesame sauce, that had an immense depth of flavour. Hidden in the black sesame sauce were little cubes of fresh apple, which provided lightness and balance. 

The meal continued with an entirely fabulous duck parmentier. At the bottom of the bowl was a delicious duck ragù enriched (because, why not?) with Lardo di Colonatta, followed by layer of light potato cream, and a crunchy topping of toasted quinoa, coarsely chopped nuts and little pieces of crispy duck skin. A well-designed dish with big flavours delivered in an elegant fashion. 

More duck followed, this time roasted duck, complemented by a smoked juniper duck jus, juniper infused gnocchi gratinated with Parmesan cheese, a puree of fresh herbs (watercress, parsley, sorrel), and some nasturtium leaves. An excellent main course with expertly cooked duck that was full of flavour. Well-judged use of juniper too, which added a nice piny sweetness to the dish. 

Before dessert we shared a slice of truffled Brillat-Savarin. I had expected the restaurant to charge a supplement for this, but it wasn't mentioned on the bill.

The first of the desserts was an elegantly sweet combination of tangerine crème, coriander granita, crisp lemon sponge cake, coriander-flavoured sugar tuiles, a thin slice of orange, and some orange puree. A delicious dessert with a lovely balance between sweetness and sharpness. Even better was the second, elegantly presented dessert: a crisp chocolate ring filled with truffled ice cream, a foamy chocolate emulsion, hazelnuts, almonds, fresh black truffle and crunchy chocolate pieces. Great use of truffle here, the ice cream being delicately creamy but with lovely distinctive truffle flavours, and the flavour marriage of truffle and chocolate worked wonderfully in this dessert.

This was my first meal at David Toutain and an excellent meal it was too. Solid one-star cooking with service to match. Today's menu displayed well-designed dishes with original flavour combinations, cooked with authority and finesse. Also glad to see that Toutain's eel and black sesame dish is still included in the tasting menu. An iconic dish, and I don't mean the stripped-of-all-meaning, overused "iconic", but the highly original, instantly recognisable, "did you have the eel and sesame dish?", never-take-it-off-the-menu kind of iconic. The initial hype surrounding this place has died down, and now in 2018 I found an established restaurant with a modern approach to fine dining that offers an appealing, idiosyncratic style of cooking. Both the food and service are exemplary for what modern (Michelin starred) dining should be.

Restaurant David Toutain
29 Rue Surcouf, Paris, France

Posted 02-05-2018


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