Skip the flight to Paris—a gastronomic journey of fine French cuisine awaits at the Knife Pleat restaurant in South Coast Plaza.
If you love to travel, but the record-breaking crowds in Europe put your vacay on hold, an escape to Knife Pleat, a local French-inspired restaurant can transport you to a world far away.
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Such was the case when I dined with a foodie friend at the Knife Pleat restaurant at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. We love the fashion-inspired name, perfect for a destination in a fashion mecca. However, while a knife pleat is a sharp corner on a skirt, the interiors of this fine-dining destination are soft and elegant.
Opened in 2019,the Knife Pleat restaurant is a collaboration between husband-and-wife duo Yassmin Sarmadi and Chef Tony Esnault. Designed to feel like you are dining in the couple’s home, the interiors are the joint effort of restaurateur Sarmadi and her architect, who took over a year to craft the perfect setting for Esnault’s innovative, modern French cuisine.
The duo met in Los Angeles following Esnault’s kitchen tour as a chef at fine restaurants in France and New York. His impressive resume includes the legendary Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo, where he met his mentor, French chef Alain Ducasse.
In 2004, Esnault was credited with reinventing the concept of the hotel restaurant by elevating the cuisine, which earned him “Best Hotel Chef of America” by Food & Wine magazine and earned his restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Boston four AAA Diamonds and four Mobil Stars. In 2005, the Knife Pleat restaurant owner reunited with his mentor in New York City, working as an executive chef at Ducasse’s Essex House and opening Adour at St. Regis in 2007. His work with Ducasse helped garner both restaurants a combined five Michelin stars and three stars from The New York Times.
When the duo met, Sarmadi, a powerful force herself in the culinary scene, owned Church & State in Los Angeles and brought Esnault on board. They later married and opened the fine-dining restaurant, Spring, to showcase fresh, local ingredients from the south of France before planting roots in Orange County with their Knife Pleat restaurant, where we dined on this night.
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We were offered champagne from a vintage bar cart. I started with my favorite: Champagne Rosé, a grand reserve brut from Château de Bligny. It was perfectly chilled; the sharp bubbles alerted me to the tasty experience that was to come. My companion chose the mocktail pairing (I love that Knife Pleat offers this), which was so on point that we had to question if it had alcohol. The creations were inventive and bold with complex flavor profiles.
Knife Pleat offered us several tastes for our amuse-bouche. The restaurant presented a spring pea tart with caviar on top, dusted with the smallest edible flower and a savory puff first and then a tiny dish of roasted peaches with tomato foam. The juxtaposition of sweet and savory was a table pleaser.
Our six-course tasting menu was artfully presented. The wine pairings were explained for each course by the Knife Pleat restaurant server. The stars of any tasting menu are: Caviar, truffles, lobster and chocolate, we enjoyed them all.
We began with a golden Osetra caviar on top of abalone, a kumiai oyster with flecks of dulse seaweed and a cucumber bavarois– a set cream often used for desserts. Packed with flavor, our tasting menu was off to a brilliant start. Our next course was a stunning snow pea presentation with Stracciatella cheese, prosciutto, pickled onion and mint.
Knife Pleat was filled with fine-food aromas. Before even arriving at our table, my guest smelled and recognized the Australian black winter truffles coming our way. The truffles were generously shaved over pastina with the delicious complement of Parmigiano Reggiano for the next course.
We agreed that when the lobster course arrived—topped with lobster hollandaise to make sure you knew you were splurging— that it was the most perfectly prepared either of us “lobster veterans” had enjoyed.
The final savory course was Cascade Creek lamb with violet artichokes, apricot, and green tomato chimichurri. Paired with another wine favorite, the Chateauneuf-Du-Pape 2005, this course fully complemented all the flavors I love.
We ended our elegant meal at the Knife Pleat restaurant with several sweet treats for dessert. From the signature house-made macaroons and a chocolate mousse with raspberries to a spicey chocolate sorbet, my sweet tooth was satisfied.
Throughout the evening, the attentive Knife Pleat restaurant team provided enough detail to help us appreciate the cuisine without denying us an evening to dine, enjoy good conversation and have some much-needed laughs.