November 15, 2019
But the most fascinating pairing of the trip was the day we ate lunch at Le Grand Restaurant and dinner at David Toutain. Here you have two supremely talented chefs, both working in the modern idiom, offering completely contrasting notions of what a restaurant might be.
David Toutain is a chef with a mission. You know from the moment you walk into the rather strange room with its black walls and bright lights that this is not going to be completely comfortable. What Toutain wants to do is challenge you. If you do not leave a meal here with questions – what is food?, what is a restaurant? what is good service?- he will not be content.
The service could not be nicer, but the entire meals unfurls in frantic fashion. The little towel for your hands arrives and – it’s cold! Then the first dish comes to the table, a little sculpture with sticks of roasted salsify. “Pick it up with your fingers.”
After that the food just comes, and comes, and comes, at a really rapid pace. There is nothing calm or relaxing about this restaurant. Half the time you barely know what you are eating and the flavors are strong, intense, and filled with contrasts.
I should mention that this is the short version of the meal. Those who opt for the major presentation get even more dishes: caviar with bananas, foie gras with butternut squash and clementines, hare with chocolate…. Either way, the staff is sympathetic, talkative, very present and the experience is exhilarating and challenging.
As for the restaurant itself – even the restrooms are unusual. It’s as if the chef wants to emphasize the fact that there is nothing ordinary about this experience. But if you’re willing to open yourself to it, you’ll leave with an entirely unique vision of food.
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