There is much to like about the new West Village restaurant, Left Bank. The menu is inexpensive and admirably brief: just five starters ($8–12), three pastas ($16–18), four entrées ($19–23), three sides ($7), and three desserts ($5–8).
But there is a distressing lack of focus in that menu: lamb tartare, chicken, gnocchi, cheese. Not much that gets the pulse racing. It’s hard to imagine a signature dish emerging from the tepid offerings the restaurant has opened with. The wine list is as brief and as timid as the menu, with about a dozen uninteresting bottles.
If “Left Bank” leads you to expect French cuisine, you would be wrong. I won’t bother you with the tortured justification for the name—something about the Bohemian reputation of the West Village (which isn’t really true anyway). A romantic twilight photo on the restaurant’s home page doesn’t resemble, in the least, the restaurant’s actual location, a cursed space that was most recently Braeburn. It hasn’t changed much, and it gets awfully loud when the dining room fills up—as it did on a recent Wednesday evening.
The owners, a couple of Red Cat/Mermaid Inn vets, ought to have known better than to choose such a frequently used name. Search for “Left Bank,” and you’re liable to find a restaurant in Buffalo, a restaurant on Second Avenue, or an apartment building in Chelsea, rather than this restaurant.
We shared a lamb tartare ($16; left), which was strewn rather lazily with leafy greens and strips of parmesan. I just barely detected the promised anchovy in the mix, but my girlfriend (who loves anchovies) couldn’t pick it up, so perhaps the balance needs to be adjusted.
She liked the Grilled Squid ($19; above left) a bit better than I did, but she noted that the beans and the tomatoes weren’t at a uniform temperature. I loved the Chicken ($21; above right), which was tender and garlicky, but the vegetables were unremarkable.
In a neighborhood that has bistro food on almost every block, I am not sure how Left Bank aspires to stand out from the crowd. The kitchen needs to pick up its game. Aside from the prices, several dollars per dish lower than comparable restaurants, Left Bank is awfully forgettable.
Left Bank (117 Perry Street at Greenwich Street, West Village)
Ambiance: Loud and Bare Bones