Thursday, April 21, 2016

Eating Out: Le Bouillon Racine

When I signed up to go to Russia last June, I didn’t know I’d be eating in one of the oldest restaurants in Paris today.
     “What’s the connection?” you ask.
     Easy.  One of the other people on the Russia trip is now a good friend of mine - I hope for many years to come - and she met me for lunch at a restaurant of her choosing.  One I used to walk by during my Sorbonne years:  Le Bouillon Racine.

Actually, there are two signs over two adjacent doors, indicating that there were once two rivals side by side: Bouillon Racine, named for the street, and Grand Bouillon Camille Chartier (not to be confused with Bouillon Chartier on the Right Bank).  Now they’re more or less one, except the one on the left offers international cuisine, I’m told, while the one on the right is traditional French.
     There’s a blue plate special daily, and you can lunch on any two of the three courses for a mere 15€95, approximately $18.  Today’s starter was a cream of carrot soup, as thick as if it were jut pureed carrots, sweet and full-flavored with a hint of herbs.  The main dish was a lamb stew with cumin, served with semolina.  The dessert was a cheesecake with a crumb pastry made of those speculoos cookies you find in Holland.  You know, the ones that fill your mouth with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger flavors.
     My friend opted for the blue plate special, minus the dessert.  Not feeling very hungry, and always unable to refuse a good risotto, I chose the risotto with gambas and scallops, all of it bathed in just the right amount of creme of seafish and pistacho, all of it served up on the plate as if it were an Impressionist tableau and taking what I call The Art of the Dribble to new levels of maestria.  I can honestly say it was every bit as delicious to eat as it was lovely to look at.
     Other items on the menu include four different soups; raw things (tuna tartare, beef carpaccio), foie gras and snails for starters; four different salads for those watching their waistline, as many French women are; six meat and four fish main dishes to choose from; a cheese tray; and eleven desserts to tempt you more than anyone should ever be tempted, including one that is called Forbidden:  caramel, dark chocolate and mascarpone ice creams sprinkled with caramel bits and draped in caramel sauce!
     Everything is cooked in-house, from fresh ingredients - no boil-in-the-bag here.  And yet the service is fast, which would indicate some serious food preparation in the kitchen.  I’m sure anyone working there gets excellent training in what being a chef should involve.

In addition to the cuisine and the service, something else that is lovely is the decoration.  This restaurant was created in 1907 and its founder Mr. Chartier chose Art Nouveau as his theme.  It starts as of the façade, with sculpted wood, mirrors and huge windows for ample light inside.
     And inside is more of the same:  sculpted wood, mirrors, ceramic edging and tiles, Art Déco representations of iris and roses... Even the furniture has flowing lines reminiscent of the Art Déco style.
     Bouillon Racine has been on the National Historical Monuments list of Paris since 1995, and rightly so. A meal there is like time travel back to the start of the last century.  And very tasty time travel at that.

Restaurant Le Bouillon Racine
3 rue Racine
Paris 6è

Daily noon to 11 pm
From 3 to 7 pm, tea is served
Happy hour 5 to 7 pm

Although in French, here are some links with lots of photos:

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