Some of my favorites from Paris: David Toutain
One of my most interesting dining experiences in Paris was at David Toutain in the 7th arrondissement. This is a fairly new restaurant that opened in December 2013 to much excitement. When I was in Paris a month after the opening, I really wanted to try it out but it was impossible to get a reservation. I finally got a chance to eat there in the summer and it was definitely worth the wait. Each dish that we tasted was more interesting and creative than the previous! David Toutain really has a way of combining very different flavors and ingredients that you would expect to clash – such as raw steak and raspberry, orange and pea, lamb and chocolate, etc. But somehow he makes these ingredients work together in each and every dish!
For dinner, there is a choice between two tasting menus – Eglantine and Mauve du Bois (both are carte blanche, meaning the menu is a surprise that’s divulged course by course). With the Mauve du Bois, you can also opt for a wine pairing and that sounded perfect to us!
We started the evening with a glass of champagne by Bruno Paillard. This is one of my favorite rosé champagnes. It’s a very pale salmon color, made with 85% pinot noir and 15% chardonnay. It is a very crisp and vibrant wine with great citrus aromas as well a bit of red fruits. Super refreshing!
We had quite a few amuse bouches with the champagne. First, we had balls of steak carpaccio filled with raspberry.
Peas with Orange.
Heirloom tomatoes with basil powder and tomato juice. This was just so lip-smacking delicious! I think I downed my soup in a matter of seconds and would’ve licked the bowl clean had I not suddenly come to my senses remembered that I was in public.
Raw tuna served with onions, cream, and trout roe.
After the tuna dish, we moved on to our first appetizer: Slow-cooked egg (we were told it was cooked exactly at 63 degrees–not a degree higher or lower) served with verbena foam and fresh almonds. I’ve never had verbena as food before and it had a very refreshing citrus flavor. I definitely need to start stocking verbena in my kitchen and incorporate to my cooking.
This dish was served with a glass of an Alsatian white by Albert Mann. It is a Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois blend from 2013.
This wine is less acidic and richer than a Riesling from the same region (owing primarily to the Auxerrois). But this being an Alsatian wine, there is still quite a bit of acidity. It is also a bit more delicate and muted than the Riesling in terms of aroma (because of the Pinot Blanc), where white fruits dominate and there are bits of floral and spicy notes.
Egg is notoriously difficult to pair with wine as it can easily make most wines taste outright awful. It’s not really the flavors in the egg that are problematic but rather their unctuous texture, which coats the mouth much like tannic foods do. The yolks especially are difficult in that respect. People recommend anything from sparkling wines to round yet fruity whites to very light reds when it comes to pairing wine with eggs. However, Alsatian whites are known matches to most eggy dishes, whether it is a simply scrambled egg and lardon dish, a custardy tart like a quiche, or in this case, a slow cooked egg.
The second appetizer we had was seared duck foie gras served with caramelized pistachios, olive paste, and cherries. This was also served with the Pinot Blanc Auxerrois.
Both the Auxerrois and the Pinot Blanc grapes add fruitiness to this wine. This provides a great and refreshing contrast to the richness of the foie gras itself (fruits complement foie gras really well), creating a more balanced dish. Although I would expect that a sweeter Alsatian wine as the first choice with foie gras, the roundness of the Pinot Blanc Auxerrois does work with the rich texture of the foie gras.
The next two courses were seafood. First, we were served a medley of zucchini ribbons, nectarine slices, smoked salmon, miso, and basil.
This was served with a glass of “Romo” by Domaine des Huards, Cour-Cheverny. The vintage is 2010.
This white is definitely a mineral driven wine. I’ve actually had this wine (though the 2012 vintage) in another restaurant – Verjus. There, the Romo was paired with a smoked pink trout dish. (see: Some of my favorites from Paris: Verjus). Smoked pink trout and smoked salmon definitely share similar taste and aroma profiles so it’s not a huge surprise that the same wine was chosen for these two dishes.
The second seafood dish was a whiting filet, served with basil cream, peas, and rhubarb. The whiting fillet was prepared in a really interesting way. I could not tell whether it was raw, smoked, cured like ceviche, or else. It definitely did not have the flaky texture of a conventionally cooked whiting. To the contrary, the texture was quite firm. However they prepared this whiting, it was ridiculously delicious!
We continued drinking the Romo during this course. Mineral driven wines are more complex than fruity wines and you need a food that matches the wine’s complexity. The preparation technique of the whiting definitely enriched the dish. Based on this, I think the Romo matched the complexity of the dish really well. In addition, the citrus aromas in the wine, along with the tart rhubarb in the food, worked really well together to complement and balance the flavors of the fish (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love tart and lemony flavors with fish).
Before moving on to our meat course, we had a snack of smoked eel with black sesame sauce. Another super interesting dish!
The final course was lamb served with chocolate sauce, smoked eggplant, and girolle mushrooms. Unfortunately, I pretty much attacked the dish as soon as I was served and I didn’t remember to take a picture until I was licking my fingers. Needless to say, the lamb dish looked as beautiful and delicious as all the other courses!
The wine that we had with the lamb was a Roussillon from the Languedoc region of France. It is a 2007 Cotes du Roussillon Les Apres by Domaine Nivet-Galinier. Roussillon wines are very rustic and often have savage qualities in aroma and taste. This is no exception and you can really notice the leather and animal notes. The wine’s aromas really closely mirror gamey meats that have strong scents. Even though it’s not game, lamb often mimics gamey-ness in terms of its texture, flavor and smell. As such, the lamb was a great match to the wine. Les Apres also has some smoky earthy characteristics, which I think work super well with the mushrooms and the eggplant.
We then moved on to our cheese course. Abondance, which is a wonderful semi-hard raw cow‘s milk cheese from Savoy.
I was definitely way too full for dessert but they gave me a little taster anyways: Cauliflower with white chocolate and coconut. I know that it sounds weird but it was quite delicious!
That concluded our dinner at David Toutain. I loved the food and really enjoyed the surprising combination of ingredients and the juxtaposition of flavors, even if it did at times make me go “hmmm” 🙂 I can’t wait to go back there and see what new flavors and dishes David Toutain has come up with.