C'est la vie, a new French bistro on Magazine between Marengo and Milan (near Ignatius), is in a soft opening period. We went last night and were pleased overall. The menu has everything you'd expect and is very similar to Crepe Nanou and Cafe Degas. We had escargot, French onion soup, a salad chevre chaud, and steak frites. The escargot (and accompanying bread), soup, and salad were all excellent. The chevre on the salad seemed to be house-marinated in herbs and oil and was very tasty, and the greens were fresh and crisp. Negatives were the frites, which were lackluster and possibly even frozen, and the steak, which was ordered mid-rare but arrived much closer to mid-well. The steak frites dish is enough for a full meal as it comes with a small salad as well. We didn't order dessert, and when I asked the server what was on the cheese plate she said, "brie, goat and Swiss" so it doesn't sound like they've gotten very ambitious with a cheese program yet. I hope that will develop over time.
I think the prices are on the inexpensive side. Our total bill was $50 including tax and tip. I wouldn't be surprised to see the prices go up some as they work out their margins better. It's BYOB right now so there's no profit being made from wine/liquor markup, and the server said they expect to get their license by April and possibly a temporary license as early as the first week of 2012. The service was friendly, prompt, and eager. The place was about 1/3 full when we were there so they weren't overwhelmed and everything seemed to be running smoothly. The decor, in sort of warm oranges/browns is not particularly to my taste but is certainly not offensive.
An aside regarding liquor licenses, it makes me angry that a small place like this with obviously razor-thin margins is struggling to get a license, while it was reported in local news sources last week that downtown absurdities Happy's and Walk-On's had been serving drinks without a license since they opened. The city official quoted in the piece said, "They decided to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission." What? I guess if you can afford to grease the right palms, you can get away with anything. Same as it ever was at City Hall.
Anyway, I'm glad to have C'est la vie in the neighborhood. It's easy to support a new restaurant when the food is delicious and the proprietors seem skilled and excited.