When modern meets classic in Bordeaux

Restaurant La Tupina BORDEAUX --- This will not be the last time you will hear of Yves Gravelier and the charming, modern, restaurant that bears his name. If I sit down and think of qualities I personally look for as a diner, Gravelier seems to pack many into a single meal: The food is modern yet bears all the best of the Classic French Touch. The décor is bright – lime greens and tangerine ---- and says fun with a capital F. You feel as though you are right place, right time.

All that would be nothing if Gravelier did not have such fine schooling (Fredy Girardet, Jacques Chibois and Alain Senderens) and an understanding palate. This is food that is inventive as well as attentive: In a single dish the 41-year-old chef manages to surprise and please, offer a course in classic French cuisine, add an

Asian touch, and make it all very, very pretty. Best of all, this man understands two essential elements of cuisine: texture and acidity. We don’t think enough about textures in our food, yet Gravelier understands the human response to a creamy coating of the tongue that plays against a fine bit of crunch. He also gets the importance of acidity in a meal, the very quality that makes us walk out of a restaurant feeling light as a feather. All this for bargain-priced menus at 24, 32 and 40 euros.

My favorite dish here is his starter of grilled pigeon, served with its liver and a deliciously rich red sauce. I’ve had the combination many a time, and savoring it made me think of what can make such a difference when dining in a restaurant that is new to us: that combination of familiarity and surprise. Here, the portion was small and just enough to tease. The taste was pure, classic, and yet was it the fact that it arrived on a plate that might have been rectangular, or square, that made it taste so different? (I once dined with a friend who could not eat in restaurants that served food off of anything other than a round plate….)

Another hit was his 12-hour lamb, here served as a moist cake made up of potatoes and long-cooked lamb topped with rare-cooked lamb nuggets, all served with green asparagus and a brilliant green asparagus sauce.

Desserts were a delight, especially the mix of crispy chocolate and chocolate mousse accompanied by a duet of cherry treats; and the raspberry crepe soufflé.

Service here is attentive, and managed by Gravelier’s wife, Anne-Marie, the daughter of none other than noted French chef Pierre Troisgros.

Nothing is more fear-inducing than returning to a favorite restaurant after a long absence. Fond memories seem to be embellished with time, and it is actually very hard for most places to live up to those skewed recollections.

I have been dining at the warming, fragrant Bordeaux bistro La Tupina for more than 20 years and have never been disappointed. My last visit was no different, and in fact was better than my memory permitted. Everything we sampled at the hand of Jean-Pierre Xiradakis had that magic touch, food with a rich, golden glow, and deep, true flavors. From fat white asparagus teamed up with fresh morels, to giant golden fried potatoes, and on to a fabulous duck carpaccio smothered in deliciously acidic shallot vinaigrette, the food spoke of France’s famed southwest. Don’t miss the hauntingly rich macaronade --- gigantic rigatoni tossed with foie gras and wild mushrooms – or the fare cooked in front of the roaring fire -- chicken, lamb, beef, you name it.

114 cours Verdun
33000 Bordeaux
tel: 05 56 48 17 15
Fax: 05 56 51 96 07.
Credit cards: American Express, Diners Club, Visa. Closed Saturday lunch, all day Sunday, and Monday lunch. 18.30 euro lunch menu, dinner menus at 24, 32, and 40 euros; a la carte from 37 to 44 euros, including service but not wine.

La Tupina
6 rue Porte de la Monnaie
33000 Bordeaux
tel: 05 56 91 56 37.
Fax: 05 56 31 92 11.
Email: latupina@latupina.com
Web: www.latupina.com
Weekday lunch menu at 15.50 euros; lunch menu at 30 euros. Seasonal lunch and dinner menu at 50 euros. A la carte, 31.50 to 75 euros, including service but not wine.