Best New Restaurants 2020: Knife Pleat Arrives With Glow of Michelin Starlight

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Manifested by the lofty team of chef Tony Esnault and partner Yassmin Sarmadi, Knife Pleat is a fresh expression of French cuisine in just the right place: South Coast Plaza.

Esnault is a Michelin-star veteran, both on his own and beside mentor Alain Ducasse. This is the first O.C. restaurant to be helmed by a chef with Monte Carlo’s Louis XV on his resumé. Open since June, the striking penthouse is radically transformed. Soft colors, fluted marble columns, and an eye-catching chandelier add modern elan. Menus are tailored as tight as a couture gown. At lunch, expect a daily three-course prix fixe for the serene patio. Esnault is a disciple of the seasons, so anticipate changes incrementally. Wild Alaskan halibut gives way to a saddle of venison, and so on. For his gorgeous Legumes de Saison, he teases out the best from each player, be it a baby turnip, tender new artichoke heart, or dainty pea pod. This romance with vegetables is emblematic of Esnault’s style—light, graceful, precise. Indulgent desserts by Germain Biotteau are stunning. Service is courtly, almost prim. Sarmadi brings an elegant presence to the room, aligning perfectly with the upscale crowd thrilled to bask in the glow of all that Michelin starlight.

WAY BACK IN 2010 Knife Pleat was Marché Moderne.

South Coast Plaza, 714-266-3388


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