One of Los Angeles' most lauded chefs is headed to a shopping center in Orange County. Tony Esnault, the chef at the downtown L.A. French restaurants Spring and Church & State, and his wife and business partner Yassmin Sarmadi, plan to open Knife Pleat, a French restaurant at South Coast Plaza in early 2019.
"It just seemed like a good fit for us, especially for Tony's style of food and cuisine and his meticulousness," Sarmadi told The Times. "And I think there is room in Orange County, room for growth."
The restaurant's name is taken from the fashion term for a pleat with the folds all pressed in the same direction. It's meant to be an homage to the restaurant's location, surrounded by high fashion, in the South Coast Plaza Penthouse area on the third floor. Christian Louboutin, Oscar de la Renta and Canali are all neighbors.
Knife Pleat is located in the space formerly occupied by the French restaurant Marché Moderne, which moved to Newport Coast last year. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant is expected to seat 90.
Esnault, who grew up in the Loire Valley and went to culinary school in Lyon, plans to use his last 25 years cooking in French fine dining restaurants as inspiration for the menu at Knife Pleat. Before opening Church & State and Spring with Sarmadi in downtown L.A., Esnault cooked at Carré des Feuillants in Paris, Louis XV in Monte Carlo, Auberge de L'Ill in Alsace, Essex House in New York and Adour at the St. Regis in New York. He was also the executive chef at Patina in Los Angeles.
Sarmadi said the new restaurant will focus on vegetables and feature influences from all over France.
"Expect to see some fire too," she said. "We don't know if it will be wood or charcoal yet, but there will be grill."
As for the space, Esnault and Sarmadi are working with Johnson Fain on the architecture and design. Sarmadi said they are redoing the entire restaurant. It will be bigger than Marché Moderne was and, as is their style, Sarmadi and Esnault will have an open kitchen.
"The style is consistent with South Coast Plaza, and higher-end luxury," she said.
Specific details on the menu at Knife Pleat are still slim, but you can expect the thoughtful flavors and artful plating Esnault is known for. And here's to hoping the chef's legumes de saison, an exquisite plate of roasted, braised, raw and steamed vegetables, is on the menu.