There is a certain build-up to a tasting. Anticipation, excitement, an urge to discover, a hunger.

But on that day at David Toutain’s, as we sat there behind the scenes of the eponymous restaurant shooting photos for an article, we were not prepared. The result? An exquisite slap in the face.

The cadence quickens, then dwindles down. We have time, time to talk about the dish just devoured, to talk about something else, to put the moment on hold. We pause. To take in the smell of the grilled hay that cradles an eel and foie gras brioche, before dipping it into its olive oil espuma. Or to laugh at the crisp kale leaf concealing a beautiful slab of lamb of an immaculate pink, and to marvel, at a dish composed of parsley, served three ways: an unctuous cream, a bitter and herbaceous mousse, and a subtly sweet meringue that melts in your mouth with every bite. And that so-called dessert composed of Jerusalem artichokes purée, pralines and milk ice-cream in which our neighbors tentatively sink their spoon; the epitome of balance. I suppose you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

We are no longer at L’Agapé Substance, the unidentified culinary object, holding our breath as if underwater, but on the rue Surcouf, in maestro Toutain’s new tailor-made space. Here, we wander; through the bright wooden décor, the gold-bottomed dishes, the beetroot sketches on the chalkboard. Sometimes, we even loose track. But we always find our way back.

Torn between the desire to observe, to dissect, and to devour.

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