Troy Hightower

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David Toutain

David Toutain trained in Paris under Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard and others, and made his name at the curiously titled restaurant Agape Substance in the 6th.  He left there abruptly, supposedly over a disagreement with the owner, and in 2013 opened his eponymous restaurant on Rue Surcouf in the 7th—a calm and almost spartan small space in grey tones and wood containing just 22 seats. The more recently inaugurated annex IdentiT has a single long slab of oak that seats 18. Toutain is a serious and inventive cook, and likes to combine unlikely ingredients: cauliflower purée with coconut and white chocolate, and oyster purée with raspberry, for just two examples. Menus are prix fixe and courses change frequently. They have curious names such as Berce, Pansy and  Poppy,  and are 4, 6 or 8 courses, with a 3 course available at lunch. Those are deceptive, however, as they don’t count 2 or 3 amuse, and a couple of pre and post desserts. Also included is his signature poached egg yolk in corn sabayon with cumin, served in its shell along with a tiny herbed cornbread stick to dip in.

On this trip, we visited for lunch, and elected the 4-course menu with a shared caviar supplement. That dish pairs Petrossian caviar with artichoke chips and mousse on a lobster gelee.... very delicate. Notable other dishes were that single bite of oyster mousse and raspberry, a fantastic cold roll of perfectly undercooked sous vide Atlantic salmon with an intense pea sauce, rare pigeon on a parsley cream with spring asparagus, and the dessert of tiny strawberries on yuzu cream with basil sorbet and a sort of berry-essence chip. Wines by the glass are limited but well chosen by sommelier Guillaume Lescoliere, and high quality. We tried Macon Viré, Chateauneuf du Pape and St Joseph from Gripa. I finished with an interesting and new-to-me eau de vie of pineapple. A superb lunch, at a restaurant we highly recommend—all counted, we had nine actual courses over two-and-a-half hours for a total bill of €329.

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