Lunch time already? But I've just had breakfast...
28 Novembre 2016
We'd had our two breakfasts and I was full and happy as Larry. Plenty of time to go for a wander and maybe even see that tower. Michelle kept reminding me about lunch and I was thinking we've just had breakfast, two in fact, plenty of time to worry about lunch later. What about David Toutain she reminded me? That's tomorrow? Isn't it? No she replied. Oh crap, I thought, I can barely move I'm so full and we need to go to lunch?
Restaurant David Toutain
Restaurant David Toutain is one of those places we had to make reservations months in advance. Stick a Michelin star on a place and everybody wants to eat there. Of the high end expensive places it was on the more reasonably affordable side of the ledger for some definitions of reasonably affordable. We couldn't miss this chance for fine dining in Paris. But we still had to get there. So much for my plan to meander across the city. Now we had to find a taxi, stat.
Our reservation was for 12.30 and it was well after 12 at this point. We were in the 3rd Arrondissement and we needed to be over in the 7th, near the tower. Heh, it looks like we were going to see the tower today after all. So scenic taxi ride ensued. Some great mobile site seeing only tempered by that feeling you get when you're running late. But it's not a bad drive along the Seine and past landmarks like the Orsay and various bridges, and then we were there.
The magic happens behind the curtain. A literal curtain behind the front door. Is that so less affluent people wandering by can't see the extravagant excess? Who cares. This day was our chance to pretend to be the glitterati. Extravagant consumption was the order of the day. And to take our orders were a couple of young attentive helpful waiters. Again, no legendary Parisian snootiness. Thankfully David Toutain is fairly unpretentious and unassuming. High end restaurants aren't as formal as they used to be. I can't recall the last time I was asked if the gentleman would like a jacket. Yes, some restaurants prefer their clientele to be dressed more formally than I generally dress. We tend to avoid places like that. One, it is a wank, and two, the food is generally not that good. But who knows what the expectation is in a classy Parisian restaurant? They were happy to let us bring a 3 and 5 year old. That usually bodes well. Sometimes some of the clientele don't appreciate having well behaved quiet kids nearby and ask to be moved. This has happened to us maybe once or twice. Usually we're oblivious to surrounding diners except to make sure we're not disturbing anyone. But sometimes we can feel people watching us intently and expect the worst. More often than not though they will come up to us and congratulate us on our dear little well behaved children. Seriously, this has happened more times than I can recall.
They offer a couple of cheaper lunch options at David Toutain that they don't offer for dinner so you could potentially dine at a fine dining Michelin starred restaurant on a budget. Of course this is a smaller limited menu. We were asked what we wanted to do and would sir and madam be interested in the truffes blanche supplement? White truffles eh? Please tell me more? No, don't. Give me all the foods. It doesn't exactly take much to convince us to go the whole hog degustation, or as it was called here, the Menu Reine des Prés. I don't know what Menu Reine des Prés literally means? When I googled it came to be either Queen of the dueling ground or meadowsweet. Meadow sweet sort of makes sense in a metaphorical way. Queen of the dueling ground bodes ill if I chose not to pay. I shouldn't mention what we paid. But you can probably look it up on the web site if you're a sticky beak so I'll save you the trouble. It was about €110 for the degustation each, and about €60 each for the truffes blanche supplement. We chose to forego the matching wines. An extra €70 to €100 to get all liquored up seemed a little excessive. But who knows, after un verre de vin or 10 I might happily go for the Queen of the dueling ground title.
Sometimes these classy places offer to make something for the children too. Sometimes they don't. Often we say don't bother they can share ours. I would prefer if the kids had their own meals but even then when they see our food come out they will ask to try it anyway. To get through a 10 course degustation the servings have to be small. Otherwise you would explode like Monsieur Creosote. Google it if you don't understand the reference - preferably not while you're eating. Actually, after two breakfasts I was close to exploding just looking at the bread. So when a tiny delicate delicious morsel of something is put in front of you and you have a couple of pairs of big eyes peering at it expectantly you just have a taste before passing it over to the kids. Why wouldn't you let the kids try it? They have to eat too. If it is good enough for the parents it is good enough for the kids. Saves us a fortune in Maccas. David Toutain was one of the places that did knock up a couple of dishes for the kids - fish, perfectly cooked of course, and veggies.
I keep saying a 10 course degustation. I'm rounding down for some reason. It was actually about 15 courses including desserts. That's only around €7.50 per plate. The truffes blanche supplement blows that out of the kitchen a bit but it's certainly not the most expensive meal I've ever had. So what do you get for your €7.50? Something exquisite, refined, delicious, delicate... Tasty tucker. 15 times a couple of waiters or waitresses would place a dish in front of us and then a third staff member would explain the dish. Something like "rare pigeon fillet, on seasonal vegetables with a quail egg infused with hummingbird spit, lightly sauteed and coated with a sweet sauce rendered from butternut foie gras of pig trotter lard and watermelon flavoured leather shoes from the chef's own feet. Please enjoy".
Then we eat with much mmming and ahhing. The kids would try a bit, I would do my best not to lick the plate, and then the empty plate would be whisked away and we'd wait for the next course. I love a good degustation. Hell, I love a bad degustation. I love not having to think about what to order. On arrival we're asked if there is anything we don't eat in case we have allergies or really don't like something. Once we were at Tetsuya's in Sydney, Tetsuya's is famous for its seafood as most of the food is Japanese inspired, and we heard the waiter ask a customer if there was anything the customer wouldn't eat and they replied, seafood. But a degustation is a great opportunity to try something you wouldn't otherwise order. You can get some weird and wacky ingredients in some restaurants.
Too soon it is all over. If 2 and half hours is too soon. That's the one downside of a degustation. Two if you count the cost. It can take hours to complete. After an hour or two you may begin to reassess your policy of bringing the kids.
Is an expensive degustation worth it? Absolutely yes. And absolutely not. Nobody really needs to eat like this. On the other hand it is like attending the theatre. It is performance art, it is edible art, it is absurdly satisfying. There is more to it than just having a feed.