Sa Qua Na is set in a little side street a short distance from the harbour of Honfleur. The simple dining room is small, with just six tables, plus another three in a separate area next to the kitchen. Alexander Bourdas, formerly head chef of Michel Bras in Toya, runs the kitchen, with his wife in charge of the service.
There were two menus, one a subset of the other (with fewer courses), priced at €80 (£57) and €120 (£86) respectively. We went for the lengthier one, which began with a trio of nibbles: a nori flavoured meringue, lard and thyme on a mini brioche bun, and a Japanese savoury flan with spinach and coriander. The flan was the best of these, the umami flavour of the flan nicely enhanced by the fresh herbs (17/20 average). Next was a sweet pancake with chives and truffle oil, essentially a posh Yorkshire pudding (17/20). Bread was made from scratch and was superb, a white sourdough with lovely texture served with top notch Normandy butter (19/20).
The wine list had plenty of modestly priced bottles available at around €30 or so as well as grander labels at mark-ups that were very fair indeed, especially if compared to London. Examples were Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Dix Arpents 2014 at €36 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €26, Alex Gambol "Les Murgers des Dents de Chien" 2013 at €97 compared to a shop price of €38, and Didier Dagenau Silex 2011 Pouilly Fume at €180 for a wine that will set you back €134 in a shop. For those with the means, Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2011 was €360 for a label whose current market price is €337, and Chateau d'Yquem 1996 was €600 for a bottle that will set you back €496 in a shop.
The formal menu began with monkfish with lime, lovage and coriander leaves and combava oil all in a coconut broth. The fish had very good flavour and the Thai style broth was light and refreshing (18/20). Next was cod with tempura of courgettes, fromage blanc, pomelos, a nori sheet and flavours of bergamot and orange. I am not fond of cod but this was superbly fresh, the hint of bitterness from the pomelos going well with the fish, the tempura very delicate (18/20).
This was followed by the dish of the night: sea bream with grated cauliflower, wheat, semolina, caramelised almonds and chermoula (a North African marinade of herbs, lemon, garlic, cumin and salt). The fish itself was dazzling, lightly cooked and with terrific flavour. The cauliflower and wheat added a textural contrast and the chermoula had vibrant flavour that beautifully complemented the fish: a stunning dish (20/20).
Next came turbot with cold pistou soup, pasta, garlic, diced vegetables and Parmesan. The turbot was precisely cooked and the bold garlic flavouring worked really well (19/20). The final savoury course was sweetbreads with garden peas, chanterelles, fresh almonds and smoked oil. The meat was delicate and the distinctive aromatic flavour of the calf pancreas was nicely balanced by the excellent peas and mushrooms (19/20).
Cheese was in excellent condition, a mix of local and ones from further afield, such as Fourme d'Ambert and Brillat Savarin. There were two desserts. Lemon tart had a partly chocolate filling, along with lemon cream, toffee, cocoa pudding and Italian meringue. This was excellent and unusual, the acidity of the lemon cutting through the richness of the chocolate (19\20). This was followed by cherry and red wine ice cream with almonds, with a light cream and muscavado sugar. The cherry flavour was good, the almonds of high quality (18/20).
Service was friendly and relaxed, with faultless wine topping up. The bill came to €207 (£148) per head, with a pre-dinner drink and a bottle of Etienne Sauzet Chassagne Montrachet 2013 (€129 for a bottle that retails at €80) to share. If you ordered the shorter menu and a more modest wine then a typical cost per head would come to about £90, which is a bargain for food of this quality. Sa Qua Na is a delightful restaurant, showcasing seafood cooking of the highest level.
Further reviews: 16th Apr 2011