Eatery - The Playground (CA)

Playground on Urbanspoon

220 E 4th St, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Pricing - $$/$$$ | Dining - Casual | Cuisine - American, Tapas

Yes yes, I finally made it to The Playground. It had been on my list of places to go but I hadn't found my way there until my friend Sidney from Yelp decided to put together a dinner there. Awesome, I thought. Time to indulge in the sweet, sweet food and indulge we did. There are so many of us that we also shared a copious number of plates. Good food and good wine - splendid time!


The first three things I got to eat only procured two photos because the fries were too far. I had the fried cauliflower with spicy mint sauce (yes, I know my picture is out of focus but it was dimly lit in there!) which was delicious. The sauce's spiciness mellowed out with the fresh mint. The second dish (not pictured) was their hand-cut fries with Japanese seven spice and horseradish. Can I say that the beef in that dish was THE BOMB or is that culturally insensitive? Either way, soooo good. Then each side of the table got stacked with an entire tray of beer-battered swordfish and its flavorful accessories. That swordfish was done just perfectly; honestly, I always have had swordfish dry and tough like a well-done steak. The Playground made it juicy, tender, and out of this world.


The next three up were some of my favorites for the evening - the braised wagyu brisket with smoked egg and chili pesto, the beet-juice infused watermelon salad (complete with feta, oranges, hazelnut, arugula, and mint), and the "jalapeno poppers" queso fundido. The brisket was Duc's favorite seeing as it melted in his mouth after being tenderly pulled away in bits from the whole. I believe he was quite impressed with the egg too. I enjoyed the refreshing watermelon salad with its myriad of crisp flavors - perfect for the summer! As for the queso, it sure had a kick to it. It got spicy really quick when it came out hot but after it had cooled a bit, it was a fiesty dish with some well-salted chips. The only thing unfavorable was that it had a wee bit too much oil but I'd attribute that to the cheese.


The treat of the night was the foie gras toast with snow blackberry jam and salt. Why is that, you say? Aside from foie gras being one of the most epic foods to ever hit your tastebuds, we were spoiled by chef Jason himself coming out to shave the foie gras onto our toast. Have you ever had a foie gras snow? It melts in your mouth just as heavenly. So, so spoiled.


By now we were all quite bursting but why go gently into the good night? We busted out an order for the tempura squash blossoms with romesco sauce, Uncle Lou's Jidori chicken legs, and the infamous Playground burger. The squash blossoms left much to be desired to be honest but whatever, bring on the chicken. Those chicken legs were to die for with a flavor that took me back to sketchy barbecued Chinese duck days but with much more tenderness and juice. Fantastic. The burger was something I was willing to unbutton the pants for - a patty done right.


The night was waning so we needed our desserts. We ended with some "milk" & cookies (buttery goodness) and a sticky toffee pudding that I practically hogged to myself. Well when you pair the pudding with some fantastic port, how do you ignore the smooth caramel finish that lingers forever? Mine mine mine!

I had a splendid night meeting new people and getting my taste of The Playground's wares. The menu changes every day, so I cannot guarantee when you'll get to try the concoctions I did but you must! I'm definitely coming back and dragging everyone I know whenever they are free (multiple trips, awesome!). My thanks to Sidney for arranging a fabulous time and to our lovely server Angela who was the best waitress I have ever had the pleasure of being the customer of!