Elegant French cuisine and a genteel ambience await in
Bernard’s Ridgefield Seemingly has it all. The pedigreed chef/owner, Bernard Bouissou, trained in his native southwest France before spending time in some of the country’s most celebrated and demanding kitchens, including those of Le Cirque and Tavern on the Green.
The well-appointed restaurant (formerly the Inn at Ridgefield) is decorated with an elegant, understated hand that creates a genteel backdrop for an unhurried meal.
The menu features many desirable ingredients, including Osetra caviar and foie gras. On any given day, there may be up to 15 specials, and, in all likelihood, the 1,700-plus-label, predominantly French wine list will offer just the right pairing.
Perhaps all these advantages set us up with unfairly high expectations. But the menu looked like many others we’ve read, and the unhurried pace morphed into too long a lag between courses. The food was generally good and well presented, but nothing sparkled.
The foundation of the menu is French, although there are dishes influenced by Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. The signature starter, perfectly crisped sweetbreads classically served with a cÃ¨pe cream sauce, is accompanied by pea ravioli, themselves a spin on a traditional Italian dish. This plate, like most others, offers an appealing array of contrasting textures and complementary flavors.
Every dish is attractively arranged. A starter of thinly sliced sea scallops layered with shaved black truffles and leek fondue formed into a rosette is served in a sealed scallop shell, which is ceremoniously cut open at the table, allowing the sweet shock of truffle aroma to burst out. Despite its glorious perfume and drama, the dish was mildly flavored, which made that first bite land like a thud on the table.
Roasted duck breast and leg confit, on the other hand, is a rich and robust dish. Judicious use of star anise, cinnamon and ginger give this classic French preparation a touch of the exotic and offer needed depth to the assertively sweet fig and port wine reduction. This is a dish of big flavors, well suited to a hearty palate and a robust wine.
No matter if your dining companion’s meal calls for a crisp white
The menu is equally considerate of diners’ preferences. In addition to well-rounded offerings on the standard menu, it is in the specials that one finds the more experimental dishes. Here is where the less formal and traditional fare resides, and here is where the chef makes use of specialty items such as duck eggs, which we had served tucked in the center of layers of very thin crÃªpes and accompanied by sheets of sliced smoked duck breast, smoked duck farci (chilled and cut to resemble a duck salami) and a frisÃ©e salad.
Every plate has many elements, which often combine a pleasing array of cultural influences and textural contrasts. Simply prepared branzini was accompanied by a crisp, perfectly golden tempura zucchini blossom and toasted couscous risotto layered with grilled zucchini.
Despite all the elements surrounding the Dover sole, nothing on the plate piqued our palates. The idea of the crisp potato crust was appealing, but somehow the fish, potatoes, and even the braised vegetables on the plate seemed washed out.
Desserts at Bernard’s were flawless. The lemon filling of a very French lemon tart was as puckery-tart as it should be, and served atop a perfectly flaky, buttery crust. And don’t miss the chocolate cake, with its oozing molten filling of luscious Belgian chocolate.
20 West Lane (Route 35), Ridgefield, CT
Lunch, Tue. to Sat. 12-2:30 pm
Dinner, Tue. to Thurs. 6-9 pm, Fri. and Sat. 6-10 pm, Sun 5-8 pm
Brunch, Sun. 12-2:30 pm