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Oct 26, 2003 11:48 PM

Left Bank San Mateo - not going back again!

  • k

Tonight I went to Left Bank in San Mateo with my wife and parents. We got there about 8 minutes before our reservation time of 7:15 pm and were told by the hostess that we had to wait a couple of minutes as we arrived early and they had not set up our table yet. We didn't think it was a big deal at the time.

After we sat down and placed our order, they didn't bring us any bread & butter. We waited for almost 8 more minutes (maybe longer) before my mom asked the waitress, to which she replied "the other person is bringing the bread out".

Then we waited almost 40 to 50 minutes before the main courses finally came out, although the appetizers arrived within 10 minutes of the 50. The wait for the main courses seemed much longer though.

My mom's bouillabaise (spelling) was on the salty side (I sampled the clams and they had a very fishy taste to it...overwhelming), and my wife's hanger steak was black/brown crisp on the outside and red on the inside. My hamburger steak which I was looking forward to ordering based on some of the CH reviews of the Menlo Park chain, was also black on the outside (tho it was medium well on inside even though I asked for medium rare) but the worst part as that the meat was dry. Were it not for ketchup and the tomatoes/onions it would have been a more difficult eating experience.

Our waitress however wasted no time in getting us the check...something they did right for once.

The food would have been a bit better had they not "rushed" to cook it. Service was rather terrible and the restaurant very poorly managed. How can food take THIS long to come out and not be done right?

Maybe the Menlo Park version is better? I've lost faith in this place period. :-(

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  1. In my opinion, the only Left Bank worth going to is the Larkspur location.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Maya

      I've only been once to the Larkspur location, and wouldn't go back. (I life in SF; my Marin friend needs to settle for mediocrity but I don't.) Nothing we ate was better than passable.

      1. re: goingoutagain

        I had a good steak frites and nice mussels there, but I agree that it's not a place I'd drive out of the city for. I love sitting outside there though.

    2. We take our kids to the Left Bank in Pleasant Hill pretty regularly, and we have generally okay experience. You've got to have the right expectations for Left Bank. To compare it to a fine French restaurant in the city would be silly. We approach it as a place convenient to the movie theaters, where our kids won't rebel and Mom & Dad just might get something good to eat. The service is the weakest link, and food prep can be hit or miss. When it's good, it's very good. The best thing about it are menu items that you don't see elsewhere, especially in a suburban family restaurant, and are worth taking a flyer on: salad Lyonnaise, a plate of mixed charcuterie served with cornichons, braised veal cheeks, salt cod brandade, hanger steak. No doubt KK could find a better reastaurant for "hamburger steak" with ketchup.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Schnauzer

        I'll second that review of Left Bank Pleasant Hill. I've found it fine for children and especially nice for convincing suburban relatives to eat somewhere where the food doesn't make me mad. The service is friendly and very informal, which suits the location. It's very reasonably priced, too. I'm forever craving the salad Lyonnaise with the frisee lettuce, and their cocktails are fun. All the down-home-style French options I've tasted there have been good or very good.


        1. re: Schnauzer

          We have always had excellent food and good service at Pleasant Hill.

        2. We went to their Menlo Park location some years ago and had terrible service, good food and then an impolite remark from the general manager...

          Recently a visit to the Santana Row outpost in San Jose--very good wine list, good food and decent service. The server became a bit too friendly and we had to hear about her offsrping...but the food was expertly prepared and the pricing was most fair.

          Based upon the review by "KK," though, I'm not sure I wouldn't mind a somewhat salty tang to Bouillabaisse. This "stew" should be fishy tasting, though, so I am not sure if everyone experienced in French cuisine would find these "problems" to actually be flaws in the preparation.

          The description of the hanger steak doesn't sound flawed to me...shouldn't it be seared on the outside and relatively rare so as not to be tougher than shoe leather?
          If the hamburger steak was over-cooked, why didn't you alert the server and send it back???

          Please be more vocal when dining out and have the cuisine prepared as you would like it!

          1. I have had some great experiences at Left Bank in Menlo Park and San Jose and I agree with Schnauzer's comments that they have a more interesting menu that what you see on most suburban restaurants.

            The San Mateo location has been open less than two weeks. KK, I would suggest that you give them time to iron out the wrinkles and try it again in a month or so. There is little to choose from in this part of the Peninsula and I would wager that for the San Mateo market, Left Bank will become a strong dining alternative. The restaurant is beautiful. The GM is the former Farallon GM and the Chef was the Chef at Meadowood and Sous-Chef at Boulevard. I would think that with the investment that has been made in the team and the decor that this group will get it together soon.


            1 Reply
            1. re: Norm

              I completely agree with Norm. It took Menlo Park quite awhile to get itself together and now the service is generally good and the food is fine. I also agree with others who said that you should not compare Left Bank to fancy French bistros in the city or wine country. For the suburbs it's great. I have been to all the branches except Larkspur. I will wait a bit before trying San Mateo but we may go there soon for a glass of wine in the bar to check it out. I too feel it will eventually be a great addition to the San Mateo dining scene.

            2. I had a chance to read everyone's replies.

              First of all my wife ordered the hanger steak and requested it be done medium. Apologies for missing this bit of detail out. However "medium" does not mean very very red on the inside, black and crisp on the outside. And no, that is not the way it is supposed to be.

              One can only deduce that from the blackness on the outside and red on the inside of the steak that the cooks rushed to get this out, as they were late in doing so. The flame was too high. It is as simple as that.

              Second, I finished my hamburger steak as best as I could even though it was on the dry side. If you had read my post carefully it took 40+ minutes to get the main courses out. If I had requested that they take it back, how long do you think it will take to get another dish let alone a replacement burger? Maybe it will turn out like the hanger steak? Who knows...I was not in the mood to wait around again and neither was my family.

              Third, I'd like to reiterate that the hamburger steak was mentioned as something one or two of the hounds had ordered and thought it was good. Yes surely I shouldn't have ordered it and would have been happier going to Bulls head in San Francisco or some other fancy burger place. But then again this is a really simple dish...if they can't get this one right how can they do well on the others? I surely was not expecting top notch French haute cuisine, but from a few press reviews/hype and seeing that it was packed on Thursday night driving by the area, how could you not think it had at least some level of standard and quality?

              I did not know this location was only 2 weeks old...I thought it had been around a bit longer. I guess every restaurant has the grand opening bug to a degree that it takes a while for them to get their act together. LB San Mateo definitely has a long way ahead of them...