FOOD: 4 stars
ATMOSPHERE: 4 stars
SERVICE: 3 stars
At first we had a little
trouble finding the Left Bank CafÃ�'Â©. The new eatery lists its address as 310 W.
Michigan St., which is actually the site of the rebuilt Cosmopolitan apartment
building. But this listing is just a way of signaling that you're in the right
neighborhood. This is the place to park your car and take the stairs down to
the Canal Walk.
The fact is we don't seem to
have a readymade system for identifying locations along downtown's Canal Walk.
That's because this delightful pedestrian thoroughfare has inexplicably managed
to remain the city's biggest open secret.
For years the Canal Walk has
been a kind of marvelous getaway, a ribbon of water making its way through the
heart of downtown, offering easy connections to Military and White River parks,
IUPUI, Victory Field and the Eiteljorg.
And for years those of us
who have used and enjoyed this special corridor have thought it a natural
setting for a cafÃ�'Â© scene that, confoundingly, has never materialized. I guess
it's been a case of no one wanting to be the first to take a chance.
Voila: the Left Bank CafÃ�'Â©.
In this case, the left bank
is actually the east bank of the Canal, just north of the Indiana Landmarks
building. The fact that there's a new cafÃ�'Â© on the Canal Walk is encouraging.
But having a place that's this good is cause for celebration.
As its name suggests, the
Left Bank CafÃ�'Â© offers a French-inflected menu – yet another pleasant
surprise, given this city's lack of Gallic options.
We started with an order of
vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms (also available with andouille sausage filling,
$6.95). Out came an assortment of fresh mushroom caps featuring a toasty bread
crumb topping over a soft, salty center of melted cheese, presented on a bed of
baby greens. Although the stuffing was hot at the center, the outer surface of
the caps remained cool, creating a pleasant sensory call-and-respond effect. A little
more garlic in the mix would have made the veggie version of this dish
In addition to French Onion
or Soup du Jour ($5.25), Left Bank CafÃ�'Â© offers a variety of salads with
homemade dressings; Flatbreads; Paninis; and Crepes, in both Savory and Sweet
varieties. We sampled the Andouille Sausage Panini ($8.95) and the Dilled
Spinach and Artichoke Crepe ($8.49).
The Andouille Sausage Panini
consisted of angle-cut bites of high quality, spicy sausage served on a grilled
ciabatta roll, treated with a delicious dressing made with sweet red peppers,
red onions, melted Provolone cheese and plenty of Dijon mustard. Simply put,
this was a great sandwich; every ingredient was given its chance to shine,
thanks to Left Bank CafÃ�'Â©'s attention to flavor combinations and its apparent
determination to use only the freshest makings.
This was certainly the case
with the Dilled Spinach and Artichoke Crepe. Cooked spinach and artichoke bits
were rolled with red onions, garlic and rosemary, then topped with a lemon egg
sauce. Dill struck the prominent note with this dish, which was enhanced by the
way the steely flavor of the pan itself informed and amplified the flavors of
the other ingredients. The crepe was served with a seasonal salad of fresh
fruit that not only made for an appealing presentation, but proved to be a
nicely conceived complement to the dish overall. Duly noted, by the way, was
how the sauce never seemed to make the crepe feel too heavy.
Desserts and breakfast
choices are also on offer – good news for folks in the neighborhood,
since Left Bank opens every day at 7 a.m. And for those of us who, for all
these years, have used the Canal Walk as a way to or from other downtown
destinations, there is finally a new place to sit, reflect and have a tasty
bite. Left Bank is open until 9 p.m. most evenings; 10 p.m. on weekends.
Left Bank CafÃ�'Â© is a great way
to start a cafÃ�'Â© scene on downtown's Canal Walk. More, please.
Left Bank CafÃ�'Â©
Canal Walk Level
Near 310-340 W. Michigan St.
Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m.-9
Friday-Sunday: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.