On a sunny, albeit freezing, windy weekday afternoon, a longtime co-worker joined me for lunch at La Vie En Rose. This time of year, lunch is usually a hurried, harried affair of leftovers at my desk (oh, the crumbs in my keyboard) so the idea of spending any extra minutes away from the office was a concern for both of us. However, sitting in a chair without wheels and wiping the crumbs of a warm sandwich off our faces with cloth napkins was enough to convince us we could make up for lost time later in the day.
After seating ourselves near a window, we were promptly greeted and placed our order. Only a few minutes passed before my chicken cordon bleu sandwich on grilled white bread and a side salad with a garlic vinaigrette ($9.95) and her bacon melt sandwich with a side of French onion soup ($8.95 plus $1 for the soup substitution) were on the table.
Her soup was served in a small ramekin-sized bowl and was filled with onion slices and topped with a baguette slice covered in melted cheese. Ordering French onion soup can be a gamble because it's often too salty, too beefy or totally bland. Hers had a nice, rich flavor and a larger portion would have made it a meal on its own. The cordon bleu is listed on the menu as "baked chicken breast topped with Kurobuta ham, Swiss cheese and persillade bread crumbs with stone-ground mustard sauce." The flavors blended well, and each ingredient came through. The chicken breast was too large to make eating it a dainty event, but slicing it may have caused it to lose some juiciness. I'm willing to suffer through a few spills to avoid that kind of loss.
My salad was a more thoughtful selection of mixed greens, cucumbers, red onions and croutons than many a pile of lettuce I've had plopped next to an entree, but it was still just salad. I wouldn't have thrown a party in its honor, but I just might have for the garlic vinaigrette. It was an odd, pale purple color and garlicky enough to elicit a "whoooo-eeee" from me, but delicious. As I soaked bites of my sandwich in it, I almost started planning for a salad-dressing soiree.
On our way out, we stopped at the bakery (I guess I would be eating at my desk after all) and picked up a huge, dense caramel brownie ($1.95), which tasted as good as it looked.
A subsequent Saturday night trip with my own special someone confirmed La Vie En Rose as a romantic, intimate dining spot. As fat snowflakes drifted past the windows, we warmed up with 16 oz. frothy lattes ($3.45 each) while enjoying a hot, melty delicious cheese stuffed mushroom appetizer ($6) and deliberated over entrees. Our server was so pleasant that only my being kicked under the table prevented me from asking him to join us. My dining companion ordered the black and blue tenderloin ($27), which arrived accompanied by vegetables, a red onion confit and pureed sweet potato. Though the confit was too sweet, the crumbled bleu cheese atop his steak added a nice tang. My roasted garlic stuffed New York steak ($29; stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and spinach) didn't have quite as much garlic as I might have hoped and though initially looked as though it had been cooked to the medium-rare I requested, was a bit underdone. My dish included crispy vegetables as well—the asparagus spears were delightful—and my steak rested on a bed of spinach rice which was a bit dry but had an interesting flavor that combined nicely with the steak. Though we didn't partake of the wine or dessert list, I made a mental note that we'd return soon for a sample of both. We took two eclairs ($3.95 each) from the pastry case to go, and though my wallet was significantly lighter, it was with full stomachs and hearts that we stepped out into the cold night air.
—Amy Atkins does not think fromage a trois is a dirty thing.