Grand Bouillon Camille Chartier Racine or something

The name is way too complicated but I totally love this place. It is glorious inside and out. Very Belle Epoch. The people who work here are completely and totally nice and so is the food, well maybe not as nice as the people but good anyway. I ate here with my sisters, Patty and Ann, two years ago and at that time we just walked in (and everyone was wonderful in every way) but mostly you need to have reservations. Ashish made them well in advance and thank god he did. It was packed, turning-away-people-at-the-door packed. When it appeared we were going to be seated downstairs Ashish begged the maitre d’ (same one we’d had 2 years ago) to sit upstairs. 

I’m not sure if his whimpering oh please helped but the host made a-just-a-minute face (in a nice way, not like I might do), looked at his book and then took us up the stairs into the glorious and grand upstairs dining salon. But before we had a chance to even sit down, a flood of twenty-three (and I heard the server say vingt-trois) American teenagers came bounding loudly up the stairs about to be sat . . . guess where. And not just at one table. At many, all around us. LOL!

Our friendly maitre d’ who, at this point, had begun walking down the stairs against the rush of pandemonium coming up, turned and looked balefully up at us amid many shrieking variations of This is so, like, ADORABLE!! Granted it is adorable, but it was going to be considerably less so with a morass of American teendom surrounding us. Ashish then changed his mind about his seating preference.

Like I said, they are the nicest people, and the maitre d’ took us downstairs before you could say Justin Bieber.

Our meal was great. As a starter Ashish had foie gras, for the umpteenth time. And I had bouillon. After all that’s what it’s famous for. The place is named after it. Seriously. But it turns out bouillon is just bouillon. It wasn’t bad. It was just, well, bouillon. With sliced green onions and cilantro crowding the surface of it. Ashish had tournedos accompanied by some sort of potato thing that I’d have been happy to eat all day (and fully plan to recreate, make your reservations now). I had the Belgian specialty carbonnade. With sauerkraut, no potato anything. Ashish ordered an additional plate of french fries, I’m not even sure why since he already had the potato thing, he lives in the land of the french fry and the entire time I was in Belgium I didn’t have even one (count ’em, 1) french fry and he was quite unconcerned by that, taking me to one Italian restaurant after another. 

As I’ve said, the place was packed and they were turning people away. But we knew there was a vacant 2-top upstairs and so when another gay couple wandered in looking for a table, we watched them mount the stairs and clinked our glass at our good fortune. 

At about the end of our main course the whole upstairs erupted in a rafter-shaking round of Happy Birthday, the entire downstairs fell silent for it. I really have no idea what the French might think of that but I thought it was really charming. Though I was relieved not to be sitting near it.