I had long heard praise of the culinary talent of chef Alexandre Bourdas, owner of the Michelin twin-starred restaurant Sa Qua Na in Honfleur (and what he calls his canteen/inn, the Pascade, in Paris). Several of my attempts to dine at Sa Qua Na fell victim to his success: fully booked. At last I succeeded by reserving two full months ahead of time.
Nothing could have prepared me for the extraordinary experience that followed. It began with the décor, which is a study in purity evinced in sheer textures and dominant horizontal lines, which conveys a warm invitation to enter and relax. I would never have expected that from such an ultra modern style. The accompanying picture does not convey it adequately.
Then there was the menu, which had no a la carte selections. There were two set meals, and everyone at our table (of seven) had to align with a choice of one or the other: we were to all have either a five or nine course meal! Outnumbered, I submitted to the nine courses, bracketed at each end by several complimentary hors d’oeuvres and dessert delicacies, and, finally, coffee.
The meal was for me a spaghetti of pleasure and distress.
The discomfort had nothing to do with the cuisine, which was inspirationally refined and exquisite. It soared majestically with the support of one of the finest white burgundies I have ever had the pleasure to experience, a 1998 Meursault Genneviliers produced by the Domaine des Comtes Lafon. I may never again sample so many exceptional and beautifully conceived dishes in the same meal.
However, even with small servings for each course, I am simply incapable of happily ingesting nine courses of anything. I wonder if there are many people with refined palates who can?
Unless Mr. Bourdas restructures his menus, consider starving yourself into shape before your meal at Sa Qua Na, reversing the usual order of events. Normally one makes efforts to get back into shape after a great meal. Here you may need to work yourself up to the experience to be able to enjoy it thoroughly.