In the understatedly elegant dining room a guest asks, "Is Bernard cooking?"
"Oh, yes, everyday," the waiter says.
The restaurant is the loveliest, most comfortable place to eat the very best French food. The yellow walls cast a warm glow in the dining room of round tables dressed in white linens and set with simple, refined silverware. The floors are carpeted, adding to a sense of padded ease and quiet. Yet Bernard's isn't stuffy. There's a relaxed sense of enjoyment.
At the table behind us, two older couples begin with champagne and oysters, and follow with omelets. Only regulars could exhibit such restraint.
A waitress brings a basket of warm, crusty bread and places a slice each plate, which we spread with soft butter. Each time she brings bread it will be warm.
Octopus salad is a gorgeous, composed spring salad of little fiddleheads, blanched and dressed, pencil-thin white asparagus, fresh garbanzo beans, edamame, little leaves, sprouts, and tiny "sweetdrop" pickled peppers. The octopus, grilled and sliced, is tender. This is an absolutely winning dish.
Asparagus soup is a hearty bowl of pureed asparagus made rich with herb butter melting in the center, and a jaunty thin toast resting on the side ($10). Soft shell crab almandine in brown butter ($14) is a crisp, rich indulgence with soft, luscious crab inside.
The fish of the day is wolffish, a firm, delicately flavored filet sautéed in butter. It rests on a lovely risotto, flecked with yellow zucchini and peas. A buttery wine sauce, drizzled with vivid green basil oil, circles the fish. Fresh asparagus spears float on the sauce. A triumphant sprig of fresh rosemary juts from the fish. This is the perfect dish: It is utterly delicious. Each component is harmonious. And at $20, an excellent value.
Duck confit pairs a rich duck leg with a pile of fresh greens, some bitter, some not. Sautéed mushrooms and raft of crisp-fried potatoes added more flavor and texture to the dish.
For dessert we split the chocolate sampler. As fun as it was to taste them all, I'd give up the dark chocolate pot de crème (pudding, essentially), and the chocolate ice cream "sandwich" (like a brownie with ice cream), for a full serving of the creamy chocolate mousse.
Bernards is at 20 West Lane, Ridgefield. Hours are, lunch, Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 2:30 p.m.; brunch, Sunday 12 to 2:30 p.m.; dinner, Tuesday through Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 5 to 8 p.m. Information: 203-438-8282 and www.bernardsridgefield.com