There was so much talk around why Agapé Substance didn’t get the star(s) they seemed so predestined to receive in February just before the controversial red guide hit bookstores.
Did they deserve what they didn’t get? Who will ever know? More importantly, who cares? As I learned, stars don’t insure a stellar experience… Agapé Substance should definitely not feel cold-shouldered… They have no star to envy when all their clients leave the place with so many in their eyes.
The food is as precise as ever, the service dance is mastered, smiles everywhere, the bathroom has a warming seat and oscillating jets to massage your derrière, the bar stools are plush albeit reserved for those with no back problems, the iPad wine list is ecological. The selection is naturally oriented: Philippe Valette, Philippe Pacalet, Gianfranco Manca, Le Coste, Anselme Selosse, Emmannuel Lassaigne. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to drink Gianfranco Manca’s Sardinian wine especially since they are virtually impossible to find and I had never tried the listed cuvée: Kussas Intrendu a Manu ‘eretta, 100% Cannonau (Grenache). The wine took a moment to open up but after half an hour in a carafe and a cool-down, it was splendid.
Agapé Substance is essentially a cooking lab where the patrons are lab rats and Toutain is the mad (super-talented) scientist. The knowledgeable waitstaff make their way around twenty or so happy and willing victims that crowd the tiny space. They pour clear and perfumed potatoe skin consommé out of test tubes onto perfectly tender gnocchi and seared foie gras. They place in front of you a sea urchin topped with a decadent coffee foam that tickles the tongue and enchants the senses. A Toutain classic that is one of the most poetic and genuine odes to mushrooms that has yet to hit my palate: his pieds bleus poêlé and chestnut crumble.
I will not list every bite I had because there were over twenty, but I will say this: rarely have I eaten so well and felt perfectly full and satisfied at the exit.
Notable is the return to the restaurant scene of Sofian Aït-Bouda who used to be the sommelier at Restaurant Spring. Considerably softened up and knowledgeable as ever, the wine pairings were spot on.
Some have said that Toutain‘s style is intellectual. I disagree. I think it is the perfect blend of a genuine emotional intelligence and refined technical ability.
The result is incredibly touching and the risk-taking is inspiring. A force to be reckoned with.
66 rue Mazarine 75006
Tel: 01 43 29 33 83
Open Tuesday to Saturday for Lunch and Dinner