It's hard to believe that it was only three months ago that I was in Paris. I never thought this would happen, but I actually visited Paris TWICE in the last three months, once in mid-December and once at the end of February.
That carefree, simple, problem-free world seems so distant now. A lifetime ago.
Both times we were in Paris because of Bryan's work. In fact, we ended up getting "stuck" in Europe during the months of February and March. In late January, Bryan happened to be in Brussels for a week long business trip. When the COVID-19 epidemic started getting bad in China, his employer told him to stay in Europe until things got better in Asia.
At that time, Hong Kong was locking down and everyone was starting to work remotely. I had never done this before, but I literally booked a flight to join Bryan that left the next day. I had one day to pack. It was so crazy and so unprecedented.
Little did I know that this was just the beginning of "unprecedented".
I ended up being "stuck" in Europe for over six weeks before finally flying back to Asia.
During our first December trip to Paris, I was drawn to two-Michelin starred David Toutain because he trained under legendary French chef Alain Passard, famous for how he cooks vegetables. As a huge fan of Alain Passard, I was definitely intrigued by his pupils and those that were trained by him.
I was not disappointed. The meal was absolutely phenomenal, definitely my favorite in recent memory. I loved the elegant and exquisite focus on ingredients as well as meticulous and artful presentation. All in all, we loved it and I would highly, highly recommend it.
We began with roasted salsify root served with cream topped with "rice crispies". The root was lightly roasted, soft on the inside. The presentation was stunning, with the salsify looking so similar to the surrounding twigs that the server had to tell us which ones we could eat.
Dip the salsify root into the cream!
Sometimes it's hard to to tell which parts are edible and which are not!
Focaccia waffle with pine cream came served on pine leaves, rocks, and twigs, evoking a sense of the forest.
Raspberry shallot cream with "oyster essence" was delicious, filled with a briny, savory oyster flavored cream inside.
Caviar with banana, avocado, and chestnuts was gorgeously presented and pleasant to eat. Although I typically don't like banana, its presence was subtle here and mostly added creamy sweetness, which balanced out the salty caviar.
These perfectly formed homemade brioche buns look like eggs in a nest.
I loved the surprising mix of flavors in the whipped butternut, foie gras, and clementine spread that came with the homemade brioche.
Instead of ribbons of pasta, our next dish consisted of ribbons of celeriac root served with a hay sabayon, shaved black truffles, and hazelnut. It was crunchy yet creamy, and overall delicious (though the black truffle flavor was not strong).
I loved the Normandy butter with celery, which we enjoyed with our bread.
We began our seafood courses with scallop, kobi (turnip), and beurre blanc. The beurre blanc (butter, shallots, and white wine sauce) has a pronounced tartness, perhaps from the type of white wine used.
I was blown away by the ultra soft texture of the cod in this dish, which came with thinly sliced parsnips and a walnut sauce. Although I did not love the walnut sauce (I'm just not a huge fan of walnuts), the cod was fantastic just by itself.
The next course was an exploration of Bretagne blue lobster three ways: a la plancha with grapefruit and juniper, as a creamy bisque, and lightly cooked with an emulsion.
The lobster was perfect, sweet, and succulent. The lobster stood out so much it made Bryan immediately say, "this is my favorite."
Finally, our last seafood course was a stunning smoked eel served in a very black, umami-rich sauce made from black sesame, fromage blanc, squid ink, and apple.
The server poured our the beverage pairing.
"Taste it and guess what it is."
It was sooo familiar, yet I could not place it. Was it apple? It seemed like it, yet was somehow different. It turned out to be a pear cider, and it paired beautifully with the dish.
Our first meat course was a perfectly pan seared duck breast with Brussels sprouts and a green curry jus. We enjoyed this with a Syrah.
The next course definitely threw us off. We thought it was a dessert, maybe some kind of whipped cream with chocolate. in fact, it was a rich beef soup made with Hakushi Japanese whiskey and whipped potatoes on top. Very clever.
The cheese course looked more like a dessert than a cheese. In fact, the white ice cream - like canele in the center was actually a whipped blue cheese served on top of a cheese “sorbet” with hazelnuts. I was very, very impressed with this dish, which had a really nice combination of flavors, textures, and temperatures.
Finally, real dessert arrived, where we enjoyed course after course of gorgeously plated "sweets" incorporating more savory vegetable elements such as seaweed, celery, cauliflower, and goat's milk.
When in France, drink cognac! Bryan typically prefers whiskey but also enjoys cognac, and was happy to have that when in France.
David Toutain Paris - General Thoughts
I loved my meal at David Toutain. I wasn't surprised, given his L'Arpege "lineage" and similar focus and care on vegetables. We also had fun with David Toutain's creative playfulness with presentation - whether it be the salsify root that looked like its "fellow" twigs or the savory beef and potato dish that resembled a chocolate whipped cream dessert. Finally, even the protein courses were mostly seafood, with only a single duck course at the end. All in all, the meal was perfect and I enjoyed it very, very much.
Definitely highly recommended!
I made reservations about a week before for a Wednesday evening slot. Weekend slots need to be booked earlier. I was able to book online directly through their website but I had to put down a credit card number to reserve the spot. If you don't show up they can charge you a fee. They may call you to confirm beforehand, so definitely leave a usable phone number where they can reach you.
I can't be of much help regarding how to get there by public transport. The week I was in Paris was during one of their BIGGEST transportation strikes in years, so virtually all the subways were shut down for weeks. Accordingly, we either walked or took taxis/Uber to get around.
Restaurant David Toutain
29 Rue Surcouf, 75007 Paris, France
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