Hot Paris Restaurants: David Toutain
David Toutain 29 rue Surcouf 75007 Paris 01 45 50 11 10
Recently I had read Meg of Paris by Mouth fame’s fantastic article about 3 star Michelin dining in Paris. I was grateful to her for doing this and telling the unabashed truth. Meg was our first food reviewer back in 2009/10 and I trust her completely.
So I took her advice as well as others and for our one nice (read expensive/fancy) meal while my sister and niece were here in Paris I reserved at David Toutain, one of the white hot Paris restaurants to open over the last several years. I had read that what he is doing is as interesting and unique as anything right now in Paris, so off we went.
The interior is plain, with Scandinavian-style blond wood. Small in size but with high ceilings and a tiny 2nd floor making it seems more lofty. As with so many places now in Paris you only have to choose if you want 5 or 7 courses, with or without wine pairing. Unless you have an absolutely HUGE appetite I always recommend the smaller one and I still leave too full and I have a big stomach to fill.
The menu was beautifully handwritten and it announces that we were to dine surrounded by the earth, the woods, the forest and the sea. In other words he was making every effort to artfully create vignettes of food that felt or looked as if you might have come upon them in the woods. For example, the amuse bouche was a salsify “stick” found on an arrangement of real wood sticks. There was a dipping sauce, which was quite tasty. Next came a green roll stuffed with something creamy. The green wrapper was actually parsley made into a sheet that he rolled and stuffed and artfully laid out as if it was a rolled up leaf in another vignette. Beautiful, but the taste was kind of meh. Not bad yet not good. A huge amount of effort for a different but not altogether compelling taste.
Then we moved on to a series of fish courses, I thought the eel was superb but several of the other courses were just ok. Everything was absolutely gorgeous as is the trend and not only beautiful in this case, clever, unique and as “natural” as the chef had wanted us to find it. The bread with smokey salted butter and the gluten free toast was one of my favorite courses.
All three of us thought that every other course worked which meant not that every other course failed, but that they were just ok. I felt that there was too much attention placed on the concept and the look and less on the taste which at the end of the day has to be paramount. I appreciate and even revere the skill, the years of training and the passion it takes to mount this kind of food theater.
But above all else, I want to be blown away more by the taste of what I’m eating than by the look or the concept. I know I stand a bit alone on this one and I’d give it another chance, but only if someone else was paying. For my money, I’d go back to Anne Sophie Pic a second time much more enthusiastically.
Anne Sophie Pic