Bordeaux has been a construction nightmare for some 10 years, with the creation of a streetcar “tramway” service.  The tram is nearly complete, and the city peaceful and beautiful now.  However, a pleasant side effect has been the restoration and improvement of the wharves.   For hundreds of years, barrels of Bordeaux were rolled down to tall-masted ships on their way to England and points beyond.  The entire waterfront on the left bank (west side) of the Garonne river now houses bike paths, grass, playgrounds, organic markets and storage warehouses turned into cafes and restaurants.  Last year we explored the Chartrons area, with its antique shops.  Today, we went further north to the Cours du Medoc tram stop, and were impressed.

But our real objective for today was the fine restaurant associated with the giant wine merchant Calvet.  They were founded here in 1818, and the building constructed around 1880 at 81, cours du Medoc.  We reserved at La Table Calvet for noon, and they were unlocking the doors as we arrived.  The room has dark hardwood floors, golden stone walls, exposed and glowing in this elegant, spacious 19th century townhouse.  The ceiling is composed of wavy white panels drilled with holes, and this quiets the room.  The back wall is all burgundy and black, very modern and beautiful.  The service was very experienced and nuanced.  We relied on the expertise of the sommelier in choosing the 2001 Calvet Combles de Canon-Fronsac red.  It was full of fruit, but with a distinct backbone.  We diluted its effects with a bottle of Badoit mineral water.

As we gazed out over the white tablecloths, we noticed the sommelier decanting a fine bottle of Leoville las Cases costing hundreds of dollars.  The central table was used to stage all the bottles of water and wine being poured for the entire room.  The table was unusual, in that, down the central pillar bounded 4 hounds carved in wood.  The businessmen ordering the Leoville had drunk the entire bottle before their first course had even arrived.  They called for another.  Thus is business lubricated in the city of Bordeaux.

The breads were made by the restaurant, and we tried cider bread, and a dense poppyseed loaf, neither of which even came close to “Frank’s bread”, with its abundance of whole grains, lentils and seeds.

Steve went for the tender Aquitaine tenderloin of beef, which was served with a delicious fried marrow, girolles mushrooms, tiny green beans, onions, purple cauliflower, orange cauliflower and a bizarre tender green vegetable sounding like celestus.

I choose the 28 euro menu.  It started with a parfait glass with a savory avocado mousse on top of shrimp served to both of us.  My first course was a flat pastry topped by green, yellow, and different types of sweet red tomatoes.   Arugula salad perched at the side of the square plate, and dabs of anchovy dip, tapenade olive dip and basil pesto completed the first course.  The main course was especially decorative.  5 medallions of chicken rolled in perfectly cooked quinoa, with 2 other colors of quinoa on the side.  Various vegetables dotted the plate. 

Then, a wooden rack with six places for glass tubes arrived. Two of the places were filled with six inch long tubes that are reminiscent of laboratory glass test tubes, complete with corks and filled with a light, delicate “violet water”, for cleansing the palate.

The dessert was a pastry packet tied with string, filled with a dense, sweet plum compote, dusted with powdered sugar and walnuts.  Walnut ice cream on the side.  Even though we didn’t order the coffee course, the nice wait staff brought us 2 miniature canneles (molded cinnamon fluted cake, specialty of Bordeaux ), two tiny tarts with jam, and two wrapped dark chocolates.  Since Steve is on the grizzly bear diet consisting of meat, fish, vegetables and fruits, he did not partake.  No need for any food tonight!

We rated the restaurant an A, for food, décor and atmosphere (tranquil, with only 2 other tables full of business men and women, and excellent, friendly and knowledgeable service.  Also, to our delight, as of January of 2008, there is no more smoking in any restaurant interior.  Hooray!

Claudia and Steve

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