One of my wine-loving friends says of a new wine discovery, “I’d like to have a bottle of this once a month for the rest of my life.” I could apply the same sentiment to dining at David Toutain’s outstanding Paris restaurant in the 7th arrondissement. Toutain stunned us several years ago as head chef at Agapé Substance before opening his own modern dining room in 2014.
Not many chefs today can offer total satisfaction in a single bite, but Toutain achieves it right off the bat with a brilliant red bundle of beef carpaccio, silken, glistening, set on a bed of pristine ground hazelnuts and topped with sharply flavored oxalis leaves.
The wide-eyed wonder continues throughout the meal as Toutain distinguishes himself as a chef who follows no one but himself, always experimenting, searching for the surprise and joy that a single bite can deliver.
Toutain has worked with the best – Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard, Bernard Pacaud – and has certainly been an exemplary student. But what I love most about his approach and his daring is the way he translates nature’s treasures to the plate. We marvel at some of his combinations – kiwi and oysters or salsify and white chocolate – and applaud when something as down to earth as a tender, juicy pigeon breast is paired with perfectly cooked first-of-season asparagus (photo). And who could resist a pair of brilliant green parsley tortellini floating in a sublime pork consommé?
His multicourse menu is restrained and you don’t leave this understated restaurant feeling as though you never want to eat again. Portions are small but not skimpy. The food is picture-perfect and always eye-opening, but not precious. Some dishes are more exciting than others: I could have lived without the abrasive smoked eel with black sesame. And I find that some of the chunky contemporary pottery – especially jet black plates and bowls – do little to flatter the visual appeal of the food.
Toutain’s attentive staff are not at all aggressive and I am always happy to put myself in the hands of sommelier Guillaume Lescoliere. We have similar tastes and I applaud many of his selections, including the vibrantly refreshing 2014 Vouvray Sec from Domaine du Clos Naudin, the lively Saint Romain pinot noir by Alain Gras, and the syrah-infused Saint Joseph from Domaine Gripa.
For a restaurant of this caliber prices are a veritable bargain with a 55€ lunch menu and 80€ and 110€ lunch and dinner menus (130€ and 180€) with wine.
RESTAURANT DAVID TOUTAIN | 29 rue Surcouf | Paris 7 | Tel: +33 1 45 50 11 10 | Métro: Invalides or La Tour Maubourg | Open Monday-Friday 12-2.30pm & 8-10pm | davidtoutain.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | Lunch: 55€ menu (not available during school and public holidays), 80 and 110€ (130 and 180€ with wine) menus at lunch and dinner | Reservation: essential