Local Bistros Offer Culinary Journeys to France, Spain and Italy

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A Slice of France at Knife Pleat

Upscale French restaurant Marche Moderne moved out of its longtime culinary digs at South Coast Plaza nearly two years ago, reopening in the fall of 2017 at the Crystal Cove Shopping Center in a space formerly occupied by Tamarind of London, and before that, Sage on the Coast.

So, what happens when one French restaurant leaves? Another one takes its place.

Knife Pleat, which opened several months ago in Marche Moderne’s old spot, is helmed by Michelin-starred chef Tony Esnault and restaurateur Yassmin Sarmadi. The name Knife Pleat is borrowed from a fashion term that Sarmadi said is a play on couture and cuisine, which is fitting for its location among the upscale designer boutiques.

The interior of the new restaurant is strikingly different from Marche Moderne, from the entrance to the positioning of the bar. The 5,000-square-foot space that has 80 seats and two dining areas. The refined architecture is understated yet elegant, fitting for its haute couture surroundings.

I was fortunate to attend a media event to try the dinner menu, and returned a week later for lunch. Both were impressive experiences.

The legumes de saison plate at a new French restaurant in town, Knife Pleat.
— Photo by Christopher Trela ©

Every dish I tasted at dinner, from the hiramasa king fish crudo with red wine poached pear and puffed quinoa to the crescent farm duck, was beautifully plated and French with a modern twist. I particularly loved the legumes de saison, which featured 15 individually prepared raw and cooked vegetables.

The lunch menu featured a choice of a three-course prix fixe menu for $32, or a la carte. I was dining with NB Indy Calendar Editor Laura Wise, so we tried a three-course menu and an a la carte entrée: The pasture bird chicken with sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and pomegranate.

The prix fixe menu that day featured a superb gazpacho, perfect pan seared branzino filets accompanied by yellow and purple roasted cauliflower with cauliflower puree and lemon caper brown butter.

Our opinion: Knife Pleat is a winner.

For more information, visit KnifePleat.com.

Cafe Sevilla Brings the Flavors of Spain to The Triangle

Every spring the Newport Beach Film Festival takes over the theaters at The Triangle in Costa Mesa for a week to screen many of the Festival films. And every year when I go to The Triangle, I have walked past Saddle Ranch restaurant, the popular western-themed eatery that prominently featured a mechanical bull in its dining room.

However, Saddle Ranch closed in March of 2018, and the space has been empty, like a forgotten western ghost town.

The vacant space is now returning to life, thanks to Café Sevilla, the Spanish restaurant and tapas bar with locations in San Diego and Long Beach. Café Sevilla will open its first Orange County restaurant after Christmas in the old Saddle Ranch spot.

I have been told to expect “flavorful Spanish fare and festive drinks, live Latin music nightly, and vibrant Flamenco dinner shows which vividly display the soul of Spain.”

The restaurant, including its tapas bar, can seat up to 90 inside and 150 on its three patios, which will have cabanas and fire pits plus heated lounge areas.

The menu at Cafe Sevilla will feature traditional tapas like tortilla Española, gambas al ajillo, and grilled Spanish salchichas as well as entrees like Mediterranean sea bass and 16-hour braised rioja short ribs.

According to a press release, Café Sevilla is “the largest importer of saffron on the West Coast,” and will offer “five show-stopping paellas.”

I’m a paella fan, so you can bet I’ll be dining there soon after it opens.

I learned that every Friday and Saturday night, Cafe Sevilla will offer a two-part Flamenco show complemented with a three-course dinner. There will also be late-night dining, dancing, and live music nightly.

Cafe Sevilla will be open daily from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. with brunch served on the weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit cafesevilla.com.

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse is just across the Newport Beach border near John Wayne Airport on Von Karmen in Irvine, but they have a unique dining event next week worth checking out.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Festa dei Sette Pesci) is an Italian Christmas Eve tradition, originating in Southern Italy and honoring the vigil prior to a religious holiday when no meat was served.

Davio’s is celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes from 5 to 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve with a three-course prix-fixe menu, prepared by Executive Chef Istvan Toth. The menu features a salad with beets and crab, antipasto with a variety of seafood, tagliatelle with bay scallops and truffle butter, and pan seared halibut with crispy anchovies.

I’ve dined at Davio’s several times and love the cuisine, the atmosphere, and the service.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (949) 477-4810. For more information, visit davios.com/Irvine.


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