Having often been criticized in France for being too traditional and attaching excessive importance to niceties such as flowers and silverware, the 2010 edition of the Michelin Guide really threw down the gauntlet when it awarded a second star to young chef Alexandre Bourdas.
His restaurant in Honfleur eschews all of the conventions of luxury dining in favor of a “Zen” décor, with linen runners on oak tables, simple stainless steel flatware and sleek Riedel glasses. And the service is warmer and more informal than is generally the case at the top of the French gastronomic totem pole.
What really matters, of course, is the food, and here there's no controversy at all. Influenced by a stint in Japan, where he was chef at Michel Bras' restaurant on the island of Hokkaido, Bourdas' deceptively simple cooking is brilliant and delicious. Sa.Qua.Na., which stands for saveurs (flavors), qualité and nature, is also the Japanese word for fish, and Bourdas' cuisine makes remarkable use of the best Normandy seafood.
Our tasting menu began with assorted appetizers such as prunes rolled in bacon, radishes sautéed in butter, a pot-au-feu of diced potatoes, tiny squares of beef, and a flan with bone marrow. It continued with sea bream with broccoli, baby leeks and passion fruit seeds in fermented butter, and cockles with Savoy cabbage and tiny cubes of sea bass and chorizo. Next came roast lamb with polenta, mushrooms cooked with lime, and baby turnips. An outstanding cheese course was followed by “cigars” (crisp pastry tubes) filled with white cocoa cream, pineapple and chopped orange.
This was a remarkable meal, and since Bourdas' cooking has made him both a local and national sensation, reservations should be made far in advance.
22 place Hamelin, HonfleurTel. 02-31-89-40-80
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