Located in the heart of Santa Monica, just off the Promenade, is Anisette, the bustling French restaurant that everyone is talking about. Upon entering, one is transported to France and an authentic bistro: high ceilings, zinc bar, dark wood, tile floor, red leather booths and a Frenchman, Chef Giraud, at the helm.

Our French waiter tells us, in his heavy accent, that the decor, including the tin pressed roof tiles, was imported directly from France. To give the place a more authentic look, the ceiling was painted a smoky hue, mimicking years of cigarette smoke drifting up from Parisian diners.

Anisette is packed for lunch; the dining room swirls with activity. Customers speak English and French in seemingly equal numbers. You know the place must be authentic when that many of the customers are French.

One of the house specialties, the shellfish selection, is tempting: fresh oysters, lobster, crab, shrimp, mussels and clams. This is the choice for many diners.

Beautiful platters of fresh seafood, Plateaux de Fruits de Mer, cover many tables. But I opt instead for some classic French bistro fare that tastes like it’s turned up a notch, something special.

The beet salad is delightful. A thin layer of warm goat cheese lies between wild arugula and beets. The red and orange beets, roasted to perfection, are tossed with a lovely hazelnut dressing. The Croque Monsieur is light and fluffy, almost pastry-like; this is no ordinary ham and cheese sandwich.

The desserts are decadent. I can’t resist trying two.

The chocolate mousse comes with sweet toasts. I dip them in the rich mousse; bread and chocolate is one of my favorite combinations.

The Vacherin Glace is the pièce de résistance: lavender ice cream topped with a light Chantilly cream, French meringues and fresh strawberries surrounding it. It’s fresh and light, quite heavenly. Eating his signature dessert reminds me of the lavender ice cream I used to enjoy at the now closed Lavande, many moons ago, when Chef Giraud was at the Loews Beach Hotel restaurant.

I finish my meal and walk upstairs to get a bird’s eye view of the place. There, I marvel at the kitchen show. Chef Giraud overseeing the food with great care, like a conductor leading a symphony. This is no ordinary bistro by the beach; it is French experience.

For more information, call (310) 395-3200 or visit anisettebrasserie.com.