Sea Urchin at Agapé Substance

Agapé Substance – NOW CLOSED

NOW CLOSED. Chef David Toutain made a name for this restaurant but then abruptly left the restaurant in December 2012 along with most of the kitchen staff. The restaurant closed during the summer of 2014.

Address: 66 rue Mazarine, 75006

Reviews of interest

The reviews below date from the time when chef David Toutain was at Agape Substance. We collected no reviews after his departure. The restaurant is now closed.

François Simon (2011) “…une belle démonstration en élipses savoureuses. Diner aux petits oignons, nickel et épurée devant une clientèle en aspiration studieuse.”

Emmanuel Rubin – Le Figaro (2011) “…chaque assiette se révèle ultracomposée dans les textures, les harmoniques et les cuissons. Les unes remarquables, culottées, précieuses. Les autres accessoires, pédantes, limite cabotines.”

Caroline Mignot (2011) “Sincèrement, je suis sortie enthousiasmée par ces découvertes, ce lieu différent et cette autre façon de montrer la cuisine…39 € ma formule, j’étais comblée…mais attention aux à-côtés qui dépassent l’entendement côté prix…”

John Talbott (2011) “…one can expect nothing (forget the critics’ descriptions, this 30 yo genius changes stuff all the time)… expect stuff you’ve never heard of before…Go?  Wow….wow….wow….wow!”

Alexander Lobrano (2011) “…a decidedly Asian aesthetic in terms of the way the food is presented; a starring role for vegetables and fresh herbs and shoots, including many obscure ones; tables d’hotes serving with stool seating…From our first amuse bouche, though, I knew that we were in for a fascinating meal.”

Patricia Wells (2011) “Think explosions of concentrated flavors, gorgeous food, pristine ingredients, and toss in a friendly, easy atmosphere for good measure…”

Thierry Richard (2011) “…la cuisine de celui que certains considèrent comme un jeune prodige de 30 ans, elle oscille entre l’inopportun et le magnifique… Au bilan des ratages : l’amuse-bouche (Yuzu en trois textures et dentelle de riz, superbe mais atone, sans la moindre percussion) et le Tourteau (servi en minuscules bouchées accompagnées d’un bouillon et d’agrumes, trop evanescent pour laisser une quelconque empreinte). Mais quand la rencontre se fait, c’est le bonheur.”

Gilles Pudlowski (2011) “Un chef avec des ailes, du grain de génie, le sens du produit, de la cuisson juste, du mariage de saveurs exactes….une cuisine de cueillette, de l’instant, d’inspiration, d’idées.

Bruno Verjus (2011) “…la cuisine joue l’inattendu et la mesure. La carte énonce sans dire : girolles, oeuf, cabillaud, veau, courgette, chocolat, carotte, pigeon. Une nomination pour une maîtrise extrême des produits, des cuissons, des températures, des goûts, des textures… Attention, génie chez ce chef de 30 ans…”

 

 

Please like & share:

15 thoughts on “Agapé Substance – NOW CLOSED”

  1. My daughter and I ate here April 15th. It was her first trip to Paris, and Agape Substance was suggested to us by a couple who own our favorite US restaurant. (The husband used to be a chef in New York and his wife worked at Per Se) They know we are food lovers, and had heard through restaurant friends that Agape Substance was a place to try innovative modern French cuisine.

    The owner, Laurent, was very helpful in making reservations via email, and graciously greeted us when we arrived. He explained the concept of the chef’s menu, and suggested the wine pairing. I was reluctant to do this as I would be the only one drinking and didn’t want to drink too much, and he said he was very flexible and asked if I wanted to start with champagne. So began our 3 1/2 hour odyssey.

    The decor of the restaurant is contemporary, lots of smoky mirrors including overhead so you can see the food. My daughter likened it to a subway car — it’s long and narrow and the lighting is similar. It almost has a 1970’s American Hustle vibe, and the bathroom is beyond words — some kind of Japanese electronic toilet seat. Don’t push the wrong button on the control panel!

    Each course was presented beautifully, on its own custom vessel (carved slate, etched marble bowls, tree trunks). The ingredients were fresh and most often delicious, although at times there seemed to be one ingredient that just didn’t belong: vanilla dusted on top of cod, gingerbread crumbs on an egg, popcorn?

    In the beginning, Laurent explained the dishes to us and also the first white wine I had. This was helpful as there are no menus or written explanations of the courses in either French or English. However, soon after we began eating, a party of two gentleman arrived. They were seated right next to the open kitchen, and clearly were there to review or blog about the food. They took pictures of every course on a special camera, and Laurent sat with them the rest of the night.

    Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect the owner to be our personal translator all evening. But we were clearly forgotten the rest of the night. Courses came with no explanation at all. It’s hard to get the concept and artistry of a course at Agape Substance when you can’t figure out what it is. Perhaps the worst part was the wine pairings (which I was reluctant to order). I received several more glasses of white wine, but never with the start of a course, so I don’t think they were “paired”. Two of the glasses were the same wine. The last glass I received was murky and looked and tasted like grapefruit juice. Perhaps a dessert wine, but we were still in the savory section. I never received any red wines, although all the other tables did. The wines I didn’t or couldn’t drink were never retrieved, so we had a collection of about five full glasses on our table. No one ever asked why, or if I would prefer something else. In all I drank one glass of champagne and one full glass of wine with dinner.

    When the meal ended 3 1/2 hours later, the bill totaled 399 Euros ($522 on my Amex statement). I was charged for the the full wine pairing, plus my initial glass of champagne (22 Euros). I felt like we had been taken advantage of and sad that the evening didn’t live up to its positive beginning. In the end, we did have a memorable meal. The creativity and visual artistry of the food at Agape Substance is something we thoroughly enjoyed. The taste of the combinations was sometimes perplexing, but sometimes I don’t understand modern art either. The atmosphere was hip and modern. Our treatment, however, was lacking, and the price for what was received was excessive. In the end, this soured what could have been a magical experience.

    This is what I will tell our restaurant friends when they ask of or our dining experience at Agape Substance. We will also tell them of all the foods and places we loved: the dorade at FISH; the veal tartare at Semilla; the rock shrimp soup and seafood platter at Brasserie Lorraine; the rose petal croissant at Pierre Herme and the crepes with sucre citron from the street!

    We will return to Paris again, but not to Agape Substance.

  2. David Toutain was yesterday Jan 26th 2013 in Copenhagen collaborating with a tallented local Chef at Kadeau a 21 course menu. Awesome experience. No plans what so ever.

  3. Hi S Lloyd: from what we understand, he’s traveling and doing stints in different restaurants around the world (he was at Atera in NYC in January). We’re stalking his Twitter feed and will keep you posted when we have any information about a more permanent landing.

  4. Does anyone know where David Toutain went? Looking forward to try his food again if he decides to resume with cooking. Loved his amazing talent

  5. Agapé Substance was, for me, the standout meal of my Paris trip, one that included forays to Piège, Akrame, L’Arpège, &c. The one element I would say that made it more memorable (over so many unforgettable ones) was how our excitement built up over the course of the night as more plates came; and the palpable excitement (or maybe it was the bustle) the staff exhibited to us during the meal. It was artful, inventive, at times thrilling, riffing on “dirt,” technical, just visually enticing and playful–a serious culinary playground, if you will.

    The speck soup and pencil leeks with quail eggs were a just a few of the most successful plates. But as some of the reviewers here have said, not everything worked (the uni and coffee emulsion dish also comes to mind) but I do appreciate that David Toutain didn’t play it safe. His daring is, I think, the hallmark of the place. I also give kudos to the selection of unusual wines, including a white from Cabernet grapes and an organic Champagne.

    I didn’t mind the small space, it felt intimate without being claustrophobic, but my back did feel some discomfort after 3-plus hours on those backless barstools. Despite 18 or so courses, I never felt overly full, probably because of the emphasis on vegetables. Staff was friendly and warm, the maitre d’ most of all (who was a spitting image of Toutain). It’s one hardworking crew. It was my first trip to Paris and a spectacular intro to contemporary Parisian cuisine. If this is how it’s going to continue to unfold, I think I’m gonna like it.

  6. I was rather disappointed by this pretty much applauded place.
    Of course, Chef David Toutain knows how to use various herbs and spices. But I was seated just next to the wine bottles, meaning closest to the kitchen, when plates arrived to me, aromes, flavors, etc., were all mixed up with the smell of the kitchen, didn’t smell like something wonderful. I have a fine sense of smell though.
    Open kitchen is lively, interesting. But the space was too compact and I didn’t felt a nice conviviality. Couldn’t they separate the eating space / the kitchen by glass or something?
    I even saw a service woman keeping my not touched slice of bread somewhere…
    If the Chef is just spreading sauce from tubes, putting little green leaves on plates, I don’t want to see the kitchen at all.

  7. I’d prefer to avoid making obvious puns on this restaurant’s name, but when I think of why we enjoyed the experience so much, it comes down to the perfect balance of substance and style. What struck me about our dinner at Agape Substance was that the food and wine were always the stars. We never felt as if Chef David Toutain was just showing off. His creative cooking techniques, unexpected combinations of ingredients, and artistic plating were intended to make the food taste and look better, not just to be entertaining or different.

    That’s not to say every dish worked perfectly. This kind of creativity is bound to produce hits and misses, and for us the misses came early. The first course of crab in an artichoke-infused water (not flavorful enough to be called a broth or bullion) was beautiful and delicate but unmemorable. The third course of sea urchin served in its own exoskeleton under a coffee emulsion demonstrated that sometimes more is less. I love the subtle, salt-water flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture of sea urchin, but both the taste and texture of the sea urchin were literally covered up by the emulsion. If I could presume to give Chef Toutain advice on improving this dish, I would suggest a duo of straight, sashimi-style sea urchin followed by the more daring preparation. Perhaps the diner’s palate would remember the taste long enough to stand up to the coffee.

    We might have been worried at this point, except that the dishes immediately before and after the sea urchin were two of the biggest hits of the night – and the hits just kept on coming after that. The second course had been a squash veloute with a lardon foam. The sweetness of the squash combined with the salty-smoky foam provided a bowl of comfort food to balance the more delicate early dishes. After the disappointing sea urchin, things really took off with a slightly charred baby Brussels sprouts with salmon roe, which stood in for pancetta to provide a salty element. Other hits included a thick slice of ginger root that somehow had been rendered potato-like so as not to burn out our palates in mid-meal. Rounding out the meal were a somewhat undersized, but delicious salmon course and an earthy mushroom-herb-foam dish, followed by a perfectly cooked lamb chop and the restaurant’s signature cheese course. Desserts were colorful and artistic, but the standout was the simplest element of all: a spoonful of buttermilk ice cream.

    With such attention to plating, preparation, and ingredients, it was no surprise at all that the substance of this meal extended to the wine pairings. The careful selection of wines showed just how food and wine can complement each other – the two together being so much better than either would be on its own. As my wife pointed out to the sommelier, when we took a bite followed by a sip of wine, then took another bite, the food tasted even better – as did the next sip of wine.

    As for style, Agape Substance looks and feels like no other restaurant. The space itself is about the size and shape of a narrow subway car, but the tight space; the green-tinted and mirror-like chrome walls; the real-mirror ceiling; and the frosted street window combine to suggest a more “out there” mode of transportation: a spaceship. When the door closed behind us, the outside world became invisible beyond the frosted glass, and we felt as if we’d entered a separate world. The first thing we noticed was the high, communal table lined with stools that runs down the middle of the room, ending at the open kitchen. Here, Chef Toutain and his crew crowd around a space that is more galley than kitchen. Even the bathroom, behind its stainless-steel pocket door, seems designed for the efficiency of deep space travel. I half expected to hear a whirring sound whenever the door slid open.

    I don’t know whether it’s deliberate, but the effect is immediately to break down barriers between the diners – especially those seated at the communal table. After all, if we’re going to be sitting together on this journey, we might as well get to know each other and compare notes on our experience. Before the night was over, even the couples at the handful of private tables along the wall eventually crossed over to the communal table to join in the conversation. It has to be a good sign when total strangers feel compelled to relive the nuances of dishes they’ve all just experienced and feel comfortable enough to do so. And those of us who stayed late were joined by Chef Toutain and some of the servers, who talked about the experience they were trying to achieve and accepted our compliments graciously.

    (By the way, both the chef and one of the other diners had already read the negative review of Passage 53 that I’d submitted to Paris by Mouth just two days earlier – as had Chef Daniel Rose at Spring, where we dined the following night. Small world.)

  8. I’ve been wondering what kind of knives they are! Can you share the name/where you found them online? Thanks.

  9. Our experience couldn’t have been more different at Agape this week.

    We’ve been lucky enough to have eaten at great restaurants all over the world and the food at Agape is easily some of the most inventive and interesting that we have ever eaten. We sat at one of the small side tables so we didn’t have people next to us but the stools were surprisingly comfortable for the whole meal. Too often chefs try to push the envelope first with technique and give the taste of the food second billing. Not so here, there were wonderful surprises and delights but nothing at the expense of basic taste. We found a wonderful progression and flow to the courses and surprisingly to the wine pairings too (often wines seem to match specific courses but don’t correspond to an overarching story).

    Flavors were quite deep but also nuanced with different preparations of the same ingredient on multiple courses to experience textures, temperatures, etc.

    Everyone we dealt with was friendly though the decor felt a little Blade Runner-esque at first! Yes things are a bit tight as its a small space but it has an intimate quality about it.

    We’ve eaten at a number of places this week including Spring, Rino, Au Passage, huitrerie Regis which were all quite good but Agape for me is the one that stands out as the most memorable and enjoyable overall.

    As an aside, the knives they have are quite beautiful with juniper wood handles and have a marvelous weight and feel to them. I found the right design online but apparently the juniper wood version is specially made for the restaurant.

  10. we were sorely disappointed by the experience. the food lacked imagination and the cramped environment made the evening unbearable. try sitting for three hours on a backless stool with strangers on either side banging your shoulders. the only dish of interest was brussel sprouts topped with salmon roe (my five year old could have invented that one). everything else was bland and tasteless. when we complained about one of the wines in the pairing being off, even the service deteriorated. Agape will leave a gap in your wallet as well as your appetite. don’t go for the food, service or ambience.

  11. You should mention his 5 years with Marc Veyrat who really influences his cooking. His knowledge and use of many different herbs (reine des prés, berce, consoude, ache,…) come from this experience. Marc Veyrat himself considers David Toutain as one of the best technician and chef he worked with.
    The setting is quite new for Paris, even if Robuchon’s Ateliers showed the way of cooking in front of the guests. But, at l’Agapé Substance, piano and table are really very close ; it’s a tiny place with constants interactions between the guests and the chef. Agapé Substance looks more like a Chef’s Table (it reminds me Cesar Ramirez at Brooklyn Fare).
    Very precise cuisine, focused on products, with creative dressing and sides. Evident and clear savors. An expected 2 Michelin stars restaurant.

  12. This was the absolute best experience I have had since relocating to Paris. A true mix of excellent service and blend of flavor/texture…a gourmand’s dream. Would recommend for those open enough to let someone else decide your meal and wine for the evening.

    Will not disappoint!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>