It’s a Michelin-starred restaurant in one of Orange County’s poshest shopping centers, so it comes as a bit of an eyebrow raiser that South Coast Plaza’s Knife Pleat has a power lunch menu with a CBD option. A cannabinoid in your asparagus soup? Sure, it’s an active ingredient in, ahem, hemp. But it is not addictive and it will not get you high.
The main difference between the two cannabinoids in marijuana is that THC has strong psychoactive effects, meaning it makes a person “high,” whereas CBD has an anti-psychoactive effect, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s website.
In this case, “power” means that the intention is to make the diner feel better mentally and physically. “CBD is the part of the hemp which is the cannabinoids minus the THC,” says Yassmin Sarmadi, proprietor of the restaurant along with husband, Chef Tony Esnault. She says this particular product, Ojai Energetics Organic Super CBD Elixir, is special, with a patented technology that makes it water soluble.
“Oil-based CBDs, like anything oil-based, when you ingest them, your body has to process the oil before it reaches your cells. So, by the time your body has processed the oil, about 95% of the efficacy of the CBD is lost,” she said.
With this elixir, your body begins processing CBD within minutes as part of an elegant dining experience. First, you peruse a frequently changing menu to select dishes such as white asparagus soup with pickled red pearl onions, celery and crostini; or a Baja halibut with black trumpet mushrooms and sugar snap peas. Dessert choices might include a decadent Louis XV chocolate cake with hazelnut crunch chocolate crémeux and gianduja glaze.
The CBD Power Lunch at Knife Pleat in South Coast Plaza
When: 11:30 a.m.-1:45 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday
Where: South Coast Plaza 3333 S. Bristol St., Costa Mesa
Cost: $110 for three courses. Ojai Energetics Organic Super CBD Elixir is available for purchase at the restaurant for $75 per 30 milliliter bottle.
As each dish arrives, your server takes a small bottle of the super CBD and distributes a dropper full of the substance onto the food. It’s not completely tasteless or odorless but its flavor is undetectable and never distracts from the cuisine.
Its health benefits, noted on the menu, are enhanced by the ingredients used in each dish. The asparagus soup with CBD supports digestion. The fish dish is anti-inflammatory and detoxifying. The cake promotes bliss. (When does chocolate cake not promote bliss?)
Sarmadi was introduced to the substance at a wine club event a few years ago. Her neighbor, Katie Galley, who attended the event and had begun talking about the elixir there, just happens to be the mother of Ojai Energetic’s founder and CEO, Will Kleidon. Galley suggested the couple use it at their restaurant in food and cocktails and she invited them and some other guests to her house after the wine tasting.
As the socializing continued, Esnault shifted into chef mode, preparing gourmet snacks for everyone. Galley asked if Sarmadi and Esnault wanted to try adding CBD to the libations.
“Tony made some martinis with it and we continued our festivities well into the evening,” Sarmadi said. “What we realized the next day was that, considering how much alcohol we had consumed, we felt much more OK than we expected,” Sarmadi said. “From that was born our CBD Power Lunch.”
Sarmadi and Esnault began serving it at their Los Angeles restaurant Spring, which opened in 2016, then closed in 2018 when the couple decided to launch Knife Pleat. When they offered it at Spring, CBD was still allowed in cocktails; laws have changed since. It’s been approved for use in food since 2022 and that’s when Knife Pleat began offering it. Sarmadi says it’s a perfect pairing with cuisine.
“Your body decides what it will do with it, how it will use it, depending on what it needs. The way you can alter that is by combining it with specific ingredients. So, these ingredients act like a little tugboat that takes the cannabinoids to specific cells in specific parts of your body. For us this was really exciting and interesting,” she said.
She cited some examples. “If you combine CBD with rosemary, it will aid in mental acuity. If you're feeling sort of mentally groggy or you want to be extra sharp, have some rosemary and have some CBD and it'll direct it to your brain,” she said. “If you're feeling like you might need a little aid with your digestion, combine it with fennel, which fennel does some of that on its own, but then it helps to direct the CBD to your digestive system.”
So, that’s the science. As for the experience, this writer sampled the CBD Power Lunch in a summer menu and found the flavors and textures of the food were not at all affected by the added elixir; each dish was everything you’d expect from a fine dining restaurant. To assess its health benefits, when the meal concluded there definitely was a feeling of bliss and well-being – of course that can be a typical Knife Pleat experience, even without the CBD.