A very good friend did something wonderful and thoughtful for me, and to thank her, I wanted to take her somewhere special. Agapé Substance was definitely the place.
The restaurant had been on my radar for a while but given the price range, it was out of my “average night out” budget. As this was a special occasion, I reserved our lunch table a little over a week in advance, for a meal that would tantalize our taste buds for weeks to come.
Practically walking right past the well-disguised exterior (that looks more like a spa that is still under construction than a restaurant), we entered to find a long, thin room with one long communal bar table leading up to the small open kitchen in the back. The decor was sleek and modern with strip lighting, mirrors and white leather bar stools.
At first, the atmosphere seemed strange and sombre. Not a lot of people were talking, laughing and smiling, as most people do when they are out to eat with friends. Once our meal started, however, it became more apparent that the atmosphere was not sombre but rather everyone was constantly fascinated with the original and intriguing plates that were being placed before them.
As soon as we were seated, delicious amuse-bouches were placed before us and co-owner and front-of-house manager Laurent Lapaire explained the 99euro (169 euro with wine pairing) menu to us. Thank goodness for his explanation because the menu was simply a list of ingredients with mushrooms next to coffee followed by calamari, strawberries and asparagus. Laurent explained that the chef, David Toutain, uses the ingredients on the menu to send out 13 courses, in no particular order. We could look around at the beautiful plates being served to our neighbors but this in no way means that this is what will be presented to us. While explaining the concept to us, Lauren did ask if there were any dietary restrictions or general dislikes that the chef should be aware of. For a no-choice menu, this was definitely a plus.
With this, we began to discover that eating at Agapé Substance was much more than a meal. We were about to embark on a journey of interesting and exquisite flavor combinations that would tantalize our taste buds and utterly confuse our minds. While each course was explained to us in great detail, we found ourselves enjoying courses with ingredients we had never heard of or flavors that we couldn’t pinpoint. At Agapé Substance, the ingredients are the star of the show and for some of the more obscure players, the raw ingredient was brought out for us to see, smell, touch. Some courses came with instructions as the waitresses told us to take a spoonful of one thing before they poured test-tubed broth into the dish which would completely change the experience. All of our senses were jumping for joy at the end of our meal.
The service was impeccable, as the waitresses would look up into the mirrored ceiling from a distance to see which plates were empty before serving the next course. The courses flowed wonderfully as well, starting off with lighter vegetables and fish and getting heavier towards the end with mushrooms, sesame pastes and meat. While the long thin communal table does not lend itself towards larger groups (or odd-numbered groups at that), Agapé Substance would be a great place for a date night or an entertaining dinner with a friend. Do keep in mind that our Saturday lunch with 5 amuse-bouches and 13 courses did take about 3.5 hours!
The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday. Book at least a week in advance. Weekday lunches have a 65 euro menu option as well as the 99 euro menu option.
66 Rue Mazarine 75006 Paris, France
01 43 29 33 83