Left Bank: Lunch on the Gauche

Wine, dine and dash.
Wine, dine and dash.

If you ever want to get in the good graces of your editor, take him or her to lunch at the Larkspur?s convivial French brasserie, the Left Bank. Part of a chain also represented in Menlo Park, San Jose, Pleasant Hill and San Mateo, the restaurant is something of a gustatory homage to La Rive Gauche, the area of Paris popularly known as the haunt of Hemingway and other expat writers of the Lost Generation. Those of us writers of Generation X, however, happily make do with the Marin County simulacrum, especially when on deadline and pressed for time. Fortunately, master French chef Roland Passot now offers the ?TGV Express Lunch,? which, when paired with a wine by-the-glass, makes for a fine, if brief, afternoon respite.

Named after an express train in France, the ?train ? grande vitesse,? the so-called ?dejeuner super rapide? doesn?t remotely resemble fast food ? it?s lunch for those with need for speed (in the ?Top Gun? not the methamphetamine sense). The excellent, value-oriented lunches are crafted from local ingredients and include Soupe de Saison and Salade du Marche, Le Sandwich and Le Plat du Chef, a chicken sandwich or ?petite pasta? for $12.50 (the volauvent, a puff pastry, in this case brimming with tuna, halibut mussels and topped with a cr?me sauce, was a small miracle).

Lobbing caution to the cool westerly breeze, I ordered a glass of wine without looking at the extensive list. Here, I was expertly guided by the waiter, who, when told I?d prefer a pinot noir that day, named the two on the menu and I chose the one with the most English in its name ? the Kenneth Volk Vineyards 2006 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Cuvee, Santa Barbara County. At $14, the wine ironically, cost more than my lunch, but was worth every garnet-colored cent. The pinot proved a mildly tannic, earthy wine brightened by raspberries, cranberries and cherries, and underscored with the slight tartness of poached rhubarb.

Now, at first blanche, the notion of enjoying a beverage emblematic of the mysteries time and space within the ever-shrinking span of one?s lunch break sounds heretical. Here?s the trick. Order the wine first, perhaps even while you?re being seated (to do so, cruise the wine list beforehand ? it?s available online). This gives you ample time to enjoy the fruits of the winemaker?s labor before, during and perhaps even after your lunch. Or, you might consider doing as did, and meet someone you know to be chronically late (though, admittedly, not as late as this column).

Left Bank Larkspur is located at 507 Magnolia Avenue, Larkspur. (415) 927-3331. Leftbank.com