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The Restaurant David Toutain (ex-Agape Substance) hits the spot.

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Three of us ate today at David Toutain's new Resto in the 7th and agreed that it is innovative, consistent (as opposed to some of the bumps he created at Agape Substance) and has the nicest, warmest, informed chef and staff possible after 5 days of functioning. It is pricey - 174.66 E a couple, loud (85.7 dB), and has a forced-choice (but 14-15 course) menu which has a thematic thrust (protein and veggie bits with bouillons poured on top). Elaine Sciolino and the NYT curse will soon descend - so go now when it's only 17.87% English-speaking. http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

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  1. How was the "superb" coffee made?

    6 Replies
    1. re: allende

      I was too entranced by my two lovely co-diners, one my darling of 52 years, the other our friend of 52 months, to go into the kitchen to see; in fact I never have. This ain't Starbucks.

      1. re: John Talbott

        No, but I bet the coffee is not as you've had in Italy. As someone else said here recently, the French know nothing about making coffee.

        What's with number 13? Why spoil the cauliflower?

        What's with number 14? Jerusalem artichokes and pineapple?

        1. re: allende

          Looks like a really interesting menu - would be nice to have a bit more detail on the flavours and how some of the contrasting ingredients worked together.

          I for one tend to reserve judgement for the food I taste at restaurants like this, if you have preconceived ideas that a combination won't work, then it probably won't.

          I have also had some pretty good coffee in France and some pretty dire coffee in Italy so why assume it's not going to be good?

          1. re: PhilD

            Have had some bad coffee in Italy, but not that often. In forty- five years, have never had a great cup of coffee in France; almost never, had even a good cup. But what can one expect, considering the types of machines that are mostly used to make coffee in France.

            If you always, or almost always, want to get a good cup in Italy, just order a ristretto.

            France far exceeds Italy in almost everything regarding food except... pasta, risotto, coffee (and, of course, white truffles).

            1. re: allende

              It is true that in Italy you have great coffee "almost" anywhere, whereas in France you have bad coffee "almost" everywhere...

              However, there is a recent trend of quality coffee shops opening in France, with amazing coffee (I even brought an Italian friend to Ten Belles, and although he hated to admit that an english speaking hipster place has great coffee... well he did).

              I've heard that a few restaurants got on the wagon too, so maybe David Toutain invested in good coffee equipment, and is buying well roasted, quality grains.

              I'll let you know, as I'm heading there next week !

          2. re: allende

            Agree that the coffee is rarely as good as in Italy which is one reason we go, no?
            As for your queries #13 and 14, I don't know how to answer; most of his combinations worked very well indeed, although some soups were not dazzling but all in all it was good.
            Now as I said, a lot of people who didn't like Agape Substance will not like DT; good friends/eating companions of mine deem stuff like he puts out too edgy. So be it.

      2. I had a similar egg and corn dish at Agape Substances during Toutain's stay there and it was one of my favorites, ever. I'm looking forward to this.

        1. David Toutain has only been open for a few minutes and Talbott le Vénérable is there already ! Many thanks for a great report. Can't wait to try it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Parnassien

            Like Satchel Paige I don't look back because something may be gaining on me.

          2. We've split off a discussion about coffee in France to a new thread, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/930309 . Check it out.

            1. So, in your 1-10 scoring, how did you rate the place?

              1 Reply
              1. re: hychka

                8.4/10, thus 3rd best of 2013:
                8.7 Hugo Desnoyer
                8.5 Les Tablettes de Jean-Louis Nomicos
                8.4 David Toutain

              2. Here is my review for David Toutain (translated from french).

                - - -

                It's so easy to get lost... While one cuisine becomes complex to the extreme, another one, on the pretext of being natural, becomes simplified to boredom.

                But refinement is not the enemy of rawness, and richness doesn't have to be synonymous with baroque... David Toutain seems to have understood this. The former chef of Agapé Substance, who also passed by Bernard Loiseau, Marc Veyrat, Alain Passard, Luis Aduriz, just opened a peaceful place, with wooden colors, where shiny white porcelain mingles with rough sandstone, and where dishes of a rare complexity become obvious beauties.

                As soon as one arrives, he can breathe; the tables are nicely scattered, the light is pleasant, and the decor is both sober and slightly looney, enough to make us comfortable. The service is thoughtful but without doing too much, just what's asked of it.

                Three choices are possible: the menu “Polypode” which the maitre d' sold as being “for the not-so-hungry or if you are in a hurry”, the “Reine des Prés” or “THE tasting menu by David”, and finally a “Truffle” menu for the season. So, with our eyes closed we decided to surrender ourselves to David... I'm sorry, I mean Chef Toutain, and order the “Reine des Prés”.

                - Salsify – parsnip cream with white chocolate -
                I didn't hear the name of the dish, and so I couldn't make the funny face you just did, nor could I raise my eyebrow with an incredulous smile. No, I just went for it, and enjoyed the crisp salsify, dipped in a smooth and coating, slightly sweet, cream. Then, I asked what I just ate, and I raised an eyebrow with a confident smile.

                - Lard chips – smoked puree -
                Of course “lard chips” sounds better than “deepfried pork skin” (at least it does in french), but the taste is the same, and this taste, my friends, is not the kind which goes “Excuse-me, Mister”, “You're very welcome, sir...”. Violently crunchy, with a taste both gentle and salty, this “chicharron” as they say on the other side of the Pyrénées, had all the character expected of him. The puree? Oh, yes, the puree was very good.

                - Croque monsieur -
                This small slice of croque monsieur was rather strange because it tasted like croque monsieur. However; made of eel, parmesan and onions (des Cévennes), one would have expected a punchier wake up call. Transforming this well-known sandwich without loosing its particularity is a tour de force, but was it really worth it? Thankfully, an excellent hazelnut butter interfered discretely and elevated the dish with its languishing waltz.

                - Samphire – cockle and razor-shell clams -
                In the bowl, a few pieces of cockles and razor-shell clams, slightly poached, and a green powder which our server advised us to taste before he would add the broth. This powder made of “samphire” (a natural specimen of which was also brought to the table, for educational purpose, which was nice) was a bit acidic, herbal with a mellow twist to it. Although it is called “marine fennel” in french, there was no anise taste whatsoever, which made me question the name... but I'm not here to revise the “Encyclopaedia Botanica”.
                The broth made with the previously mentioned shellfish, diluted everything into a hot&cold dish which quickly became a tepid&cold dish, then a cold&cold... I have nothing to say about the gustatory conception of this dish, but the temperature could be adjusted.

                - Speck mousse – pumpkin velouté -
                With each dish the vessel and cutlery changed, and for this one we were brought a fork and a soup spoon with a particularly flat shape. This velouté was served in a narrow bowl and... how should I put it...? I have absolutely no clue as to how we were supposed to eat this thing. So after tickling it with the spoon and approving with the tip of the lips the meteoric intensity of this smoked ham mousse brilliantly paired with the sweetness of the pumpkin; Mrs Yeti and I raised our bowls under the dumbstruck look of the room, and with a clerical silence finished their content with big gulps. The beautiful ceramics were put down on the table, followed by a long sigh, and the discussions could continue their course, the servers continue their choreographic ballet.

                - Soft boiled egg – corn cream – cumin caramel -
                The perfect cooking of an egg at low temperature (a little birdie told me 62°C...) creates a flowing yolk and a custardy, barely set white: sensuality made food. Subtly enhanced with the corn cream and the cumin caramel, this egg was of the kind that you eat with your eyes closed, hoping no one is watching you.

                - Squid – dashi “nuba” - parmesan gnocchi -
                A delicate barely cooked squid was taking a bath in a dashi with soymilk which the server called “dashi nuba”... in french “danser la nouba” is an old expression meaning “to party widely” and has an 80s ring to it. I'm guessing she meant to say “yuba”, which is the skin that forms on soymilk when it is heated. To give this japanese-inspired dish some rhythm, gnocchi (italian-inspired, obviously) made with “parmesan water” were scattered on the plate. They had nothing to do with what we usually call gnocchi, they were translucent, incredibly light and evanescent, and probably didn't contain any potato. This is a good illustration of what I tried to express in my introduction; the technicality and originality of this dish are obvious, however, nothing seemed out of place for my taste-buds which were rubbing up against all these jolly fellows as if they had done so all their life.

                - Scallops – Brussels sprouts – brocolito puree – Madras curry -
                Except for the Madras curry sauce which seemed a bit too much like a sweet and sour Chinese sauce (not that there is anything wrong with that), everything else was perfectly cooked, seasoned, and good. I know I'm not really supposed to write “good” in a culinary critic, because “good” for someone is not “good” for the other, and I'm supposed to write as precisely as I can the reasons why I like or not a dish. But sometimes there is no swing, no diamond accessory, nothing special to say except “yes, please” when you are offered a second serving. In this kind of restaurants, you are rarely offered a second serving... too bad.

                - Smoked eel – black sesame cream -
                In this case, on the other hand, it's a different story... because swing like that is not found around any corner! In this cream named so modestly, little cubes of apple added their crunch and zing. But really, what transformed the dish, is this key information that I managed to obtain after a bit of negotiation with our server: monkfish liver was used to intoxicate everything with its complex, floral and earthy aromas. This foie gras of the sea, as it is often called, brought its magic wand to better elevate the eel's soft and tender flesh, subtle and humble smokey flavor... A dish from another world.

                - Rabbit – carrots -
                This technically impeccable dish didn't make any mistake... but sometimes life is unfair, and someone had to come after the eel. So yeah, not bad.

                - Mont d'Or -
                A french Mont d'Or (with raw milk, unlike its Swiss counterpart aparently), well matured, served with a spoon, coming from the cheese-maker Antony (in Vieux-Ferrette, Alsace). As soon as it passed by the tables, a few ladies fainted, a boy with his eyes on his iPad discreetly put his shoes back on, and some dogs started barking on the neighboring street. The art of gastronomy is truly beautiful when a bacteriological rottenness as vile as this cheese turns out to be a flower, what am I saying, a thousand flowers, a drug, a poem.

                - Desserts -
                Although three desserts were served, they all gave me the same general impression. The “white chocolate ice cream with cauliflower mousse and coconut cream” was... interesting... The “Jerusalem artichoke ice cream with praline Jerusalem artichoke” was also pretty... interesting... The “celery” was slightly better, with different textures, sugary, caramelized, creamy, crunchy. The vegetable was used more like a spice rather than being the star of the show (except for those two black celery cubes), which made it work better for me.
                David Toutain is onto something, but unlike the creativity that seems to flow naturally in his savory dishes, there's a feeling of forced stylistic exercise in his desserts. They are masterfully put together, but I would have liked to see what they would have tasted like without the use of grumpy vegetables. They would probably have been less memorable, but also more appreciable.

                I ended with an excellent coffee from Ethiopia, ground on the spot and roasted at “Coutume Café” (for more discussion on whether this coffee was indeed excellent, superb, or headache inducing, you can check out this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/930309 ). Mrs Yeti had to satisfy herself with a floral tea, because they didn't have infusions, which is an astronomic shame, scandalous, and I'm going right now to lodge a complaint at the “Consortium of Good Manners in Catering Trade”! (I promised her I would mention this small fact to my dear readers).

                What else to say? You probably understood that David Toutain charmed me, moved me. His cooking is impeccable and sincere. He knows when to use modernist techniques, but they never come out as cheap tricks and always remain at the service of his enlightened mastery of flavor pairing. He is eager to invent but without going onto slippery slopes (except maybe for the desserts), his vision is clear: the sky is unobstructed, the trees are singing, one can hear their sap flowing, the leafs wriggling, a fresh breeze from the North, and the blade of a knife being honed.
                There is no path in this elegant forest, however, when one sees the chef moving forward, he seems to be floating serenely on a small boat with a distinct trajectory.

                - - -

                The menu “Reine des Prés”, water (filtered on the premise) and a coffee came to 104€ per person.
                For the review in french, with a bunch of photos, you can check out: http://www.chezfood.com/2014/01/08/da...

                5 Replies
                1. re: Rio Yeti

                  Ironic timing: Alec Lobrano has a review in the NYT as well.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    Well there goes my "same-week" reservation then...

                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                      The curse/blessing of the NYT Rio.

                    2. re: John Talbott

                      It's a nice review--here it is: http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/20...

                      1. re: andaba

                        So... I googled Alec Lobrano and realized he was there the same night I was. So "ironic timing" indeed !

                        He must have gone a couple of times though, because some of the dishes he describes were not served that night. And I think he got the "bacon emulsion" wrong, it was a "smoked puree".
                        But it is a nice review indeed, I sincerely wish all the best for Chef Toutain, he deserves it.

                  2. Recently I dined chez DT as a result of John Talbots recomendation
                    I will share my impressions without going into detailed descriptions of what I ate .I chose the Polypode menu and a biottle of white wine.
                    The menu consisted of 6 courses of small plates at a cost of 68euros.I found the dishes quite uneven.A few were really innovative and tasty ,while others seem quite neutral with no special character.Desserts were worse,just sweet.
                    I was surprised with the dominance of spanish wines.
                    and the high costs.I have to say that spanish wines today have the best qualte/prix.
                    Service was good ,bur somewhat impersonal

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: pierre

                      Can't win 'em all.
                      And you and I didn't like a lot of his stuff at Agape Substance either.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        You guys have me on a teeter-totter on this one...

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          Based on your initial review I recently booked DT for an upcoming trip in a few weeks. According to the concierge at my hotel, reservations are filling up, and currently one needs to book about four weeks in advance. I had a stellar lunch at Agape Substance two years ago, and I am really looking forward to my upcoming dinner there. I will share my thoughts after my trip.

                          1. re: fishskis

                            fishskis and Mangeur
                            I think this may be a place that divides the CH-folk, like Aizpitarte's, Marchand's and Ducasse's places as well as Lazare and Itineraires; you either love 'em, hate 'em or have up and down experiences.
                            Me, I've done well there, although when Pierre(45) and I went to Agape Substance we found it precious, pretentious and often over or off the mark.
                            But so far, I'm doing well there.
                            On verra.

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              "a place that divides the CH-folk, like Aizpitarte's, Marchand's and Ducasse's places as well as Lazare and Itineraires; you either love 'em, hate 'em or have up and down experiences."

                              If we could just define a divide, it would be simple. I would suggest that this list shatters rather than divides CH-folk. Your list, as might most arbitrary hand clutches of pop names, leaves us adrift, as much praise as fault. I guess c'est normal.

                              Read, read more, reread and roll the die.

                              1. re: mangeur

                                As you've often said, Mangeur, you pick a guru and follow him or her until you don't anymore. And maybe you'll score and maybe not. We who blog daily, write about what we experience, It may or may not conform to what your next meal or Pierre's (who by the way often co-dines with me with great concordance), one hopes it will. But if not, all I can say is that I'm sorry.
                                " I would suggest that this list shatters rather than divides CH-folk."
                                Were we ever united? On any place? Spring, no, L'Ami Jean, no, Septime, no. All blessed by the NYT. As was/is David T.
                                Isn't this the virtue of CH over the guidebooks or dailies or weeklies? Isn't this our strength?
                                Mao had one thing right - "Let ......"