Knife Pleat South Coast Plaza Yassmin Sarmadi Tony Esnault Knife Pleat

Knife Pleat

South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Cuisine: French
Chef Tony Esnault delivers très elegant, French contemporary cuisine in a jewel box created for him and by him with restaurateur and wife, Yassmin Sarmadi.
Openings: Lunch & Dinner Tues.-Sat.
Knife Pleat, Costa Mesa, CA

Knife Pleat Restaurant Review:

About the chef, the restaurateur and the restaurant: We met chef Tony Esnault in November 2009, a few days after he had just landed in Los Angeles from France to take over the kitchen of a fine-dining establishment downtown. We crossed paths with restaurateur Yassmin Sarmadi in 2008 when she opened Church & State. The two are now husband and wife, and have joined their expertise to open Knife Pleat in the luxurious South Coast Plaza. (The name comes from a fashion term, which is appropriate since the restaurant is located in such a notable shopping destination.) The owners of South Coast Plaza understand fine dining, so they wanted an haute gastronomy restaurant on their premises. They chose team Esnault + Sarmadi to design and bring to life a dining venue worth the trip, even (and especially) if you don’t live in Orange County. No corners were cut, despite the logo of the restaurant. It took almost a year to open, but the result is here and the stage is set for the chefs in the totally open kitchen, with plates, silverware, glasses and bottles adding to the show. The décor is très elegant in pale pink (chairs), light brown (tables, floor), purple (sofas), white (bar and walls) and gold tones. It is sometimes revealed to the passersby when the glass floor-to-ceiling windows gently glide open. If you choose to sit inside, you will do so under an alabaster chandelier, otherwise the sky is the limit on the patio. Over the course of Esnault’s time in the Golden State, we have seen the evolution of his culinary creativity and precise execution, directed by his very calm character. This has occurred slowly and surely to the benefit of the ingredients and produce (which, of course, are seasonal) he utilizes to compose his dishes. We think he has more on his cutting board for the runway in the years to come. And just like in haute couture where all the details are hand done and personalized, the plates are specially fabricated for the restaurant.

Likes: Everything, on top of the $32 three-course prix-fixe menu for lunch, and the Sunday afternoon tea. We just want to come back.
Dislikes: Make sure to call ahead to get directions on how to find the restaurant in the Plaza. It is not that simple.

About the food: You might begin with some caviar served with a delicious egg sabayon, but Esnault’s talent is more showcased in his delicate wild mushroom consommé. The risotto “de la mer” with prawns, cuttlefish, Monterey squid and carabineros in a lemon confit is a must-have as Esnault excels in risotto making. Continue with the wild Alaskan halibut with an olive crust adorned by fennel, scallion, tomato confit lemon in a Riviera jus. Why must we have to choose between the venison saddle and the boar pasta? (Actually, we had both and still cannot decide --- and will not.) The tastes, flavors and textures of Esnault’s dishes are always smartly balanced and in harmony. Backed up by pastry chef Germain Biotteau, the sweet ending is totally in line with the savory dishes. A surprise awaits in the “Caramel,” where a V.S.O.P. Cognac mousse, almond cake and crumble, caramel cream and ice cream are hidden --- well, no longer because we just told you --- below a caramel tuile. We also liked the poached pear served with a pecan and Bourbon cream, pecan crumble and pear sorbet.

Drinks: In a node to fashion, the craft cocktails are named after famous designers like Christian Dior and Oscar de la Renta. The wine list is mainly assembled with French labels, but that is to be expected. Château Pétrus 2006 tops the list at $4,500.

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