French cuisine is trending, at least here on the Suncoast. With the expansion of C'est La Vie to a new location on University, foodies are tucking into croque madames, quiche Lorraine and an abundance of melt-in-your mouth, buttery pastries and entremets.
And yes, "tiny" is a perfect description for the kitchen, but make no mistake: the menu offers full-flavored, delightful classics. The French onion soup is one of the best interpretations I've had of one of my all time favorite French dishes. Deep, rich, dark beef broth is simmered for hours with fresh herbs; piping-hot caramelized onions rest just below bubbly, golden brown melted cheese over toasted croutons.
A goat cheese tart with herbed puff pastry and side salad was pleasant, if not memorable; but a main dish, featuring veal, got us back on track. Tender cubes of veal, cream, white wine, herbs de Provence, mushrooms and carrots over rice reminded me of past visits to France, searching out off-the-beaten-path cafes. Beef bourguignon, another classic, is also done well; so are the crepes served at lunchtime. There's an impressive wine list, too.
The hosts and service were delightful, and we wish the new owners well. They have created a charming space for dining.
218 Tampa Ave., Venice