My second visit to Camille was a slightly more sedate affair - aside from a boisterous group of American women, the restaurant was relatively quiet when I tumbled in, fresh from Bar Hemingway, at about 10 o'clock. I was seated at a small table toward the back, and settled in with my book and a pichet (25, not 50 centilitres this time) of my beloved Bordeaux.
I'd filled up a bit on Bar Hemingway's most excellent potato chips, so I decided to forgo a starter and dive right into Camille's legendary (well, to me and Louisa, at the very least) steak tartare. I had to reassure the waiter that I knew the dish n'est pas cuit ("is not cooked"), and said yes to his offer of salad and frites on the side. This was gonna be good.
And it was. It was so good that I almost forgot to pause long enough to take a picture - but that would have been a crime, since you all deserve to bear witness to this most gorgeous dish. The steak tartare at Camille remains the best I have ever eaten - and I've eaten my fair share. The silky egg, the cornichons, capers and onions laced throughout the meat, the earthy mustard: all of these are to be expected, and are fantastically in play here.
But there's something else going on in Camille's tartare that I haven't quite been able to pin down - some elusive sweetness that balances out the tang of the traditional ingredients. This balance of sweet and savory is the same thing that makes their duck so delectable, and is, I think, is the thing that makes Camille so exceptional. You don't expect a neighborhood joint to produce something this subtly and intriguingly seasoned - it's a pretty impressive feat.
Oh, and the fries? Cooked in duck fat, and completely sublime. Ditto the simple salad, bibb lettuce tossed with a house-made vinaigrette.
Finally, to finish things off nice and proper, I ordered chocolate mousse for dessert. Camille's mousse is dense and rich, made with bittersweet chocolate and not a whole lot of sugar. Which is, for me, pretty close to perfection. I tried to solider through, but only managed to finish about half. My adorable waiter was a bit disappointed, I think. I promise to try harder next time!