Sunday night (Feb. 2002) we were getting together for dinner with friends who live on the Peninsula and we thought it'd be more fun for us to make the trek over the bridge and try what would be a new restaurant for Mike and I in that part of the world. I had read many good things about Left Bank, the menu sounded great and the prices seemed very reasonable, so we decided to make that our destination. In all, we had a pretty good dinner, though I was left with a couple of complaints.
The restaurant itself seems to be in a busy, posh-commercial area of Menlo Park. It describes itself as a brasserie and it certainly has the feeling of one. The large room with very high ceilings looks very modern while feeling like a throw-back to old-world, turn of the century architecture. The dim lights and somewhat clubby look contributes to the effect, while the large French posters give it a definitely casual look. The restaurant has both regular tables and booths; the latter are just across from the kitchen counter. We were seated there and I would recommend avoiding them if you visit there. The booths themselves are not very comfortable. They are a little bit too small, they don't leave much elbow room nor space between you and the table (a special concern when you are pregnant). They are also too low. Most annoyingly, however, is that they are extremely loud. Now, the whole restaurant is very loud but these booths are just next to the kitchen counter, where you can hear dishes being taken and put away constantly. We pretty much had to shout to communicate.
Service was good, but not great. The waiters seem to be constantly hurrying around, and sometimes it took us a while to catch their eye when we wanted more bread or something else.
The menu looked very much like the one they have online, though there were a few differences. As appetizers we decided to split the Charcuterie Platter ($11) and the Souffle ($8.50). I don't like souffle so I don't have much to say about it, but Mike thought it was very good. The charcuterie platter which included smoked duck slices, sausage slices and a country terrine, was nice, though not spectacular. It went well with the bread - though I would say that Left Bank could score many more points if it served warm rather than cold bread.
For dinner, I chose the Duck a l'Orange ($17) while Mike and one of our friends had the boeuf bourguignon ($15), and our other friend had the risotto ($13). I liked the duck. It was nicely seared, and the sauce was very pleasant - intense without getting bitter. It was, however, a little bit too fatty and most of the flavor was on the skin rather than the somewhat overcooked meat. Still, it was much better that what I could make at home (and not nearly as good as the duck you can get at Bay Wolf). The boeuf bourguignon was also very pleasant, perhaps not as intensely flavored as I'd like, but still pretty good. Mike ate every last piece of it. He had a glass of the cabernet and thought it was quite pleasant as well.
The dessert menu was pretty brief but everything in it sounded great. I would have liked to split the creme brulee ($5.50) and the Fondant au Chocolat ($6.25) with Mike but he was really mean and said he wouldn't give me more than a bite of the fondant, so we both ordered that. It was very good. It consisted of a moist cake with a hot liquid chocolate filling, the flavor was intense, though not too sweet, and it went very well with the accompanying vanilla ice cream. I would certainly order it again.
All in all we had a pleasant dining experience. If I lived in the area I would probably go again (though ask to be seated some place else).
635 Santa Cruz Ave.