La Vie En Rose has an old adage to thank for any and all positive comments to follow. Were it "second time's a charm," I would've crossed the quaint bistro permanently off my restaurant list earlier this fall when a Sunday morning breakfast turned into more than a two-hour affair. That day, after having been seated immediately, I spent lots of time waiting until my cold food arrived awkwardly on two separate plates. But a few weeks later, I thoroughly enjoyed a to-go order of La Vie En Rose's bacon melt sandwich. However, it wasn't until this assignment that I ventured in again.
The second time I took a seat at La Vie En Rose, I was hoping for service with more haste than my first visit. Not fast food, just more timely service. I got my wish, but barely. I rarely take the time to lunch away from my desk, and when I do, I'm on a time budget—an hour (including commute time) tops, preferably 45 minutes. However, it was a good thing my afternoon schedule was clear the day I stopped in for lunch because I walked in the door at 11:29 a.m. and didn't make my way back out until 12:45 p.m. In fact, the wheels were turning at such an excruciatingly slow pace that had BW not been paying me to sit there, I would have stormed out. When my lunch finally arrived, a half-salad, half-sandwich combo ($8.95), I was mostly pleased. Both were doused in the house balsamic vinaigrette, a tangy dressing to be used sparingly. The spinach salad, weighed down with apple chunks, nuts, bleu cheese, onions, tomatoes and strawberries, was a knock-down drag-out fight for the attention of my tastebuds, especially with the addition of the vinaigrette. I did not, however, take issue at all with the Tuscany, a heftily portioned half of dense foccacia, thickly sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella, and large leaves of basil with a flavor that popped right out.
Had the staff been more considerate of my time, I would have been pleased with my second experience. Truly the space is beautifully done, with rich cafe decor that remains within the confines of good taste. On each table is a different cake plate acting as a condiment rack. Round tables surrounded by plush dining chairs offset the flimsier standard cafe furniture.
But they say the third time's a charm. So I went back. During all three visits, I had the same server, a very composed individual, who manages to never look flustered. For this last visit, either my cover had been blown or he was having an "on" day because in less than four minutes, I'd been greeted, ordered and been served drinks. Less than 15 minutes after walking in the door, I was examining my food. The French onion dip ($9.95) was as elegant as a hot beef sandwich gets with a subtle kick from melted horseradish havarti. Most impressive was soft baguette which barely contained the onions, mushrooms, roast beef and cheese. The accompanying French onion soup could have used another tip of sherry, but it was not covered in the typically impenetrable layer of melted cheese, but rather sprinkled thinly. The potato salad suffered from the similar light-handed flavoring, with the dill hardly breaking through the rich sour cream. I finished up with a slice of framboiseier, two dense layers of sponge cake separated by a layer of custard and frosted with a subtle whipping cream and raspberries. Like the bistro's interior decorating, dessert is something La Vie En Rose has perfected to an indisputably elegant art form. As for the rest—breakfast, lunch and dinner—I'll hold out hope that the imperfections are merely growing pains.
—Rachael Daigle finger paints in shades of framboise.