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OC: Playground (Feb. 2014)

February 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Author: Victor, David, and Simon
Restaurant: The Playground
Exec Chef: Jason Quinn
Website: http://playgrounddtsa.com/

February 7, 2014

General Notes:

This gastropub is really casual and laid-back, but the food is exceptional. Most of the menu changes a bit each day depending on fresh ingredients, but the maple-glazed pork chop and Black Mission fig dessert seem to be permanent.

The kitchen really seems to enjoy cooking, and it kind of shows in the experimentation of both the food and meals. They do special event meals at their sister restaurant, Playground 2.0 (from pop-ups to invitation-only tasting menus), and they also have some fun with Sunday suppers.

Regarding the meal, it was generally really good. There were some dishes that were outstanding, but there were also some that were merely good (they were simply outshone by the amazing ones). All the flavor combinations worked very well, but two dishes were way too salty (the wild mushrooms and broccolini). I’d come back just to eat the rich, indulgent pork chop or the intensely flavorful mazemen, though; they were that amazing! I really have to applaud Chef Quinn. This place is exciting!

Click here to see pictures of our meal!

OC: Playground (July 2013)

September 28, 2013 1 comment

Author: Monte
Date: July 26, 2013
Website: http://playgrounddtsa.com/

I had heard great things about Playground 2.0, the pop-up haute cuisine concept from Chef Jason Quinn in Santa Ana, California, and while I wasn’t able to try the pricey new OC hit, I was able to try the original and pretty affordable gastropub, Playground. I love this restaurant for what it stands for. It’s a no-holds barred, Chef’s way goes (but it’s not yet a dictatorship where the customer’s preference is entirely disregarded), rebel standout. The menu is eclectic, the craft beer choice is extensive, and the overall vibe is hip without the “ster.” I came with my family and we tried a bunch of different dishes, all of which were delicious. The

Here’s the Menu! Really creative stuff, and all on small plates meant to be shared like tapas.
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Course 1: Pan Roasted Corn, Tare, Crispy Chicken Skin, Scallion

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The tare sauce was really interesting…it had a really complex tangy tamarind-y rich sour umami-ness to it. The sweet corn and sauce paired well together, with the sweet corn undercutting the intensity of the sauce.

Course 2: Pork & Duck Pate, Sweet Potato Puree, Sour Cherries, Pistachio Crumble, Pangratta

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The richness of the pate was really well balanced by the cherries and sweet potato. The flavors were complex, although I had wished the pate was a bit more smooth. The texture was much more like a headcheese.

Course 3: Dragon Roasted Summer Squash, Feta, Chimichurri, Mint, Pine Nuts

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A really light and refreshing course. The crunchy pine nuts were a welcome contrast to the soft and meaty squash. I wish there was a bit more feta to contrast with the light mint and chimichurri sauce, but it was still a great dish.

Course 4: Pan Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Slow Egg, Garlic Confit, Marcona Crumble, Macrona Puree

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Such wonderful garlicky taste throughout the mushrooms. The sous vide egg was tasty too, and made the entire dish a bit richer.

Course 5: Duck Breast, Cherries, Kale, Poultry Jus, Black Pepper Waffle Crispies 

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I liked the cherries and the sauce but the skin could’ve been a lot more crispy. Not the best, not the worst.

Course 6: Maple Glazed Pork Chop

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Hollllly pig, this pork chop is amazing. It’s massive, about the size of a small bowling ball. I would guess it’s about 2.5 solid pounds. The meat was extremely tender and juicy, with such a sweet maple glaze. The meat itself had the texture similar to a great ham, just being soft while melting in the mouth. The char on the outside is great too. I guess it’s sous-vide, no other way for such a massive chunk of meat to be so tender throughout.

Course 7: Wagyu Tri Tip, Country Mustard Vin, Shaved Red Onion, Baby Kale, Confit Fingerling Potato

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I thought this dish was quiiiite disappointing and forgettable. Very bland, and meat didn’t taste fatty and tender like wagyu normally does. I kind of just ignored this dish and turned back to the massive pork hunk on the table that seemed to never end.

Course 8: Coconut Sorbet, Ashley’s Shortbread, Burnt Lime Meringue

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The coconut sorbet was pretty refreshing, and was also made via pacojet. I like the meringue but wished there was more besides the tiny smudge across the plate.

Course 9: PacoJet Flavor of the Day: Chocolate Milk Ice

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A great ice cream, it’s a little bitter, and overall had a great dark chocolaty taste.

Course 10: Black MIssion Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding

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This dessert was amazing. It was so sweet, but with raisin and cinnamon spices undercutting the total sweetness of the caramel. It was warm, sticky, and just oozed all over the taste buds. Incredible.