France is one of my favorite places. Without its culture, the art of food would be lost. Many of our modern recipes and menus come from the French. Look through a culinarian’s library and most likely you’ll come across Auguste Escoffier’s beloved book, Le Grande Culinare, a bible of techniques that most chefs, if not all, use today. It’s evident the chefs at French bistro Lilly’s have done their homework as they continue to perfect their craft and are eager to share their gifts with the public. This restaurant has been around for years, as has their loyal fan base, but the menu has been updated to keep with the ever-changing face of Venice.

As you walk up their brick steps, you enter into what could be best described as a comfortable living room with lounges facing the bay windows and soft candlelight enveloping the area. Up another small set of steps, you find the bar, providing a bit of seclusion and a great setup for the Happy Hour bar menu you can order from.

The Crab & Avocado Tower with Papaya Dressing is delightful. The mold of lightly seasoned crab atop precisely cut avocados is adorned with bits of vinegary tomatoes and papaya. Papaya is not one of my favorite fruits to eat, but when prepared this way, I will make an exception.  

A French classic, the Napoleon, gets a shot of layered complexity with the eggplant, tomato and basil sauce complimented with mozzarella cheese. Another classic, the tartine, gives you many choices, including brie, walnuts and fig or a bolder barbecue short rib paired with wild mushrooms. Pair these with a dry Tariquet wine, festive sangria or champagne all priced below $8 for Happy Hour.

Maybe after a few appetizers and drinks, you’ll want to head out to the ivy-lined patio for dinner. The dinner menu has new additions like the pecan-encased chicken balanced with sweet potato fries and a buttery, whole-grain mustard sauce.

Make sure to ask what the special of the evening is. If it involves fish with lobster sauce, order it without hesitation. Mine was a generous portion of whitefish atop a medley of vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, surrounded by the decadent lobster sauce.

A true sign of French technique is when your plate is hot but your sauce is not broken: Chef Francis Bey and company make sure that doesn’t happen. Even with the Hachi Parmentier, a fusion of shepherd’s pie with short ribs and the Gruyère-browned potatoes, the wine reduction was just the right consistency. When you dip your ribs into the sauce, it covers the meat and the fork without clinging. This sauce means business!

I giggled a bit when I read the description of the Steak Tartare & Frites. I’ll never forget my first time ordering this dish at a French restaurant years ago. When it arrived, it was raw and I was flabbergasted. I sent it back, and the chef came out and scolded me because that is the way it’s served. Lilly’s menu reads: “classic raw beef tartar.” It’s an acquired taste, a delicacy that is not for the faint of stomach, but so delicious should you choose to order it. If you must have your steak charred, you won’t be sad with the cross cut New York steak, and you can order a choice of classic sauce, ranging from Béarnaise to Roquefort.

If there’s something the French are known for, it certainly is desserts. Crème Brûlée, Chocolate Mousse L’Orange, Apple Tartin: They’re all there waiting for you. The candied oranges atop the chocolate mousse give texture to the fluffy chocolate mixture. And how can you go wrong with the sugar-coated crème brûlée? Just make sure you have some tea or coffee to go along with it, and you’re all set.

Brunch gets an honorable mention simply because that was my first meal in Venice several years ago. The Salade Frisée aux Lardons was my initiation, and I judge every restaurant I go to by how well they make it. The ingredients are simple enough – frisée, poached egg, bacon and croutons – but the mustard dressing is the clicker. Between that, the Moules Frites (black mussels with fries) and a glass of champagne with Cointreau with fresh blackberries, one can spend every Sunday in France.  

For more information, call (310) 314-0004 or visit