All about Toutain
Discovering the 33-year-old French talent, the best foreign chef according to Guida di Identità 2015
French chef David Toutain, since December 2014 the chef of the homonymous restaurant at 29, Rue Surcouf, Parigi, +33.(0)1.45501110. According to the eighth edition of Identità Golose’s Guida ai ristoranti di Italia, Europa e Mondo, out next November, he’s the Best Foreign Chef. He follows Pascal Barbot (2008), Renè Redzepi (2009), Josean Alija (2010), Inaki Aizpitarte (2011), Giovanni Passerini (2011), Daniel Humm (2012) and Kobe Desramaults (2013)
The first time we happened to read about this 33-year-old originally from the Lower Normandy was 3 or 4 years ago. Spanish critic Rafa Santos was struck and wrote about the Agapè Substance, a very busy Parisian bistro that was ruled by the measured vegetable-focused talent of its director, David Toutain. The verdict: 19.5/20, the same hyperbolic vote – the precursor of the highest vote – that the founder of Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia then gave to a world-class restaurant manager like Martin Berasategui.
Our antennas were raised a little more after reading this young man’s cv: in the course of around ten years he had worn some elbow grease next to geniuses such as Bernard Loiseu, Marc Veyrat, Andoni Luis Aduriz and Paul Liebrandt. Most of all, as Toutain’s colleague in Paris Simone Tondo reminded us of, «At 21 David was already the sous chef of a certain Alain Passard at Astrance while Mauro Colagreco – now 2 splendid Michelin stars in Mentone – was still the chef de partie». We’re not speaking of a child star but at 30 he already had seen endless things, including one year spent travelling and cooking around the world with his family, as soon as he left the Agapè and before opening, on December 23rd 2013, HIS restaurant.
The boss’s cv certainly does not show through the laid-back welcome of the guys at DT or through the naturalist-contemporary decor and the installations hanging on the walls, with those trunk sections that direct the setting even further North of the Seine-bank where it is located. The light of the sun, from the large windows on the streets, turns on the lights on the kitchen which sometimes plays by hinting at a very recent past (the reproduction of the earth, in the way of the Basque edible landscapes, the Redzepi-inspired raw stones and hay on which he places pan brioches) but which almost always doesn’t repeat anything else if not a technique that in the course of time has become his own.
The entrance to the restaurant, a few steps from the river Seine, around the Invalides, in the seventh arrondissment
A technique that bursts out, free and powerful, in his approach to vegetables, the stars of the dish, not because today Redzepi or Ducasse say so, but, if anything, because Passard did it in the past, an echo that clearly was recorded in the head of the young Toutain and has finally found the right repeater at 29, Rue Sourcouf.
At his place, today a successful alternation of acid and sour strokes (the pea and orange wafer at the beginning is a welcome to the best of all possible worlds), protein and vegetal, endlessly caramelised carrots yet crunchy under the teeth, beauty treatments that transform roots from earthy into sweet, centilitres of prawn/carrot stock as concentrated as before a big bang, eels that swim in pools of black sesame, speck tartares that demand to get out of the walls of a squid and the hat of a kale. Distant kingdoms happily collide in a Cauliflower mousse with white chocolate and coconut sorbet or in an Aubergine and thyme sorbet.
A great cuisine galloping towards the future, clinging onto the axis of simplicity and flavour, the latter being an eco-plumb of which Toutain never lost sight during his non-stop long-haul flights above the earth and the ocean. These dishes are conceptual yet only seemingly hermetic and cold, once the surface vanishes in the substance of new, intelligent solutions worthy of study. This confirms that Paris is the preferred laboratory for high cuisine in Europe, the Eldorado to which we have to refer to before the beams of light coming from the great North. Besides, if we at Guida di Identità award a chef working in the Ville Lumière (Toutain follows Pascal Barbot, Inaki and Giovanni Passerini) for the fourth time in 8 editions, this must mean something, after all.
Caramelised cod, carrot, verbena (for all the other dishes, click on the photo-gallery on the top-right corner)
29, Rue Surcouf
Only tasting menu, from 68 to 98 euros (158 with the paired wines)
Closed on Saturdays and Sundays
Rubriche - Zanattamente buono
Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world
born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, he's been working as a co-author and coordinator of both Identità Web and Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook for the past 7 years