Some restaurants you go to because they call you “sir” and generally treat you like you’re a second tier member of the English royal family. Other restaurants you go to because they’re straight-up fun: they serve excellent food and you leave having made friends with every person in the place. Belle Vie is the second type of restaurant. It’s also the type of restaurant you’ll go back to again and again. Even though it’s in Brentwood.
As you walk into this casual French bistro, located next to a McDonald’s and opposite a Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, you’re likely to be greeted with “Hey guys!” - whether or not you’ve been here before. If French people gave high fives, you’d probably get one of those too. There are French posters all over the walls, a big bar, and lots of red leather booths. Your waiter (also French) will start by handing you a short menu, lugging over a blackboard full of specials to prop on a chair, and kicking off their campaign to be your new best friend. Within the span of five minutes, you’ll have wine advice (and probably a glass in your hand), food advice, and probably even some life advice.
The menu itself is short, supplemented by a few more options on the blackboard, and with a nod to the fact that you are actually in California, not Paris. There’s mac and cheese (with truffle, of course), and some insanely good beef burgundy tacos that mix rich French stew with soft tortillas so well that you wonder why no one thought of this before. Trust your server when they tell you to order the gravlax - it might seem like a weird thing to eat a French place, but it also might be the best thing here.
It doesn’t take long at Belle Vie to realize that it’s become a complete neighborhood hangout. Locals pack the place for Thursday lunches and Saturday nights - definitely for the food, but also to hang out with their new French best friends. In a land full of white tablecloths and restaurants that all feel like chains, Belle Vie is an outlier you won’t mind crossing town for. We’ll meet you at the bar.
We’re not sure what makes these angelic rather than deviled - they seem the same to us. They are a bit fancier than the ones at every gastropub ever, and are super rich, but a nice way to start.
Fusion so often goes wrong, but not with these tacos. Rich beef stew topped with raw mushroom on top of little tortillas. Order these.
These Thai-style mussels come in a white wine sauce with Thai basil and chilis. You will need to ask for another serving of bread and you should not be embarrassed by this.
We were fairly sure our Nana’s gravlax (salt-cured salmon) was the best in the world, and then we ate this one. Served on top of horseradish cream with a beet puree and fresh horseradish on top, this is so much better than it sounds on the menu. Get this, then apologize to Nana.
If you’re scared of food that looks like it was once alive, this one isn’t for you. A single giant octopus tentacle on top of cauliflower puree with a bunch of hazelnuts. Too many hazelnuts for us, but the tentacle was perfectly cooked.
A big steak that comes out with a super tasty crust, pre-sliced, and cooked exactly as you asked for it. But for our money, it’s too fatty, and not worth the $54 price tag.
Desserts are always on the specials board and therefore always change. If you see the chocolate pot de creme, make a mental note and plan the rest of your ordering accordingly.