BEHIND-THE-SCENES AT ‘THE PLAYGROUND’ SOFT OPENING
Last Tuesday, November 15th marked the soft opening of Downtown Santa Ana’s hottest new restaurant, The Playground. Located in the heart of Santa Ana’s latest up-and-coming area, the East End Promenade (across from the Yost Theater), The Playground is taking the notion of ‘pub food’ to an entirely new level, dazzling diners with out-of-this-world cuisine.
As The Playground’s Owner & Executive Chef, Jason Quinn puts it, the vision for his menu was simple: “New American small plates. Ingredient-driven. Technique-driven. One great burger, epic chicken wings, delicious pork belly, awesome vegetable preparations, sous-vide hanger steak, interesting flavor combinations.” And, together with his team of insanely-talented, young chefs (Brad Radack, Frank Deloach, Karl Pfleider and April Ventura), this vision has quickly become a mind-blowing, delicious reality.
And, food is only part of the story at The Playground. Beer-lovers, brace yourselves. With the help of Jarred Dooley, one of approximately 200 Certified Cicerones (a.k.a., Master Beer Sommeliers), The Playground boasts a world-class craft beer list with 15 rotating beers on tap and a 60+ bottle list — needless to say, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. And, in the spirit equality, all draft beers are $5, all the time. They simply come in 15, 11 or 8-ounce pours, depending on cost and alcohol content – but, no matter what, are always 5 bucks. Gotta love that!
A mind-boggling craft beer list consisting of 15 rotating beers on-tap and 60+ bottled beers
On Tuesday, November 15th The Playground opened their doors to family & friends for an evening of menu tasting and celebration, and I was there to capture some behind-the-scenes action both on the dining room floor and inside the kitchen. Below, feast your eyes on a small visual taste of what The Playground menu has to offer. Then, be sure to come out & ‘play’ next time you’re in Santa Ana – I promise, even if you don’t live locally, it’s worth the trip!… Hope to see you all there soon!
Left: Pre-opening, the staff of The Playground samples the menu; Right: Jason Quinn describes the menu to staff
Shishito Peppers and Edamame; As the Soy-Sambai sauce reaches caramelization
Shishito Peppers and Edamame served in a Soy-Sambai Caramel
A colorful assortment of house-made pickles
Kurobuta Pork Belly Individual Piadina sandwich with Charred Scallion Crema and Salsa Tigre
Left: Jason Quinn expediting with Brad Radak in the Kitchen; Right: Karl Pfleider & Brad Radack workin’ their magic
Hands-down the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten in my life. Ever. 50% Wagyu Beef / 50% Eye of the Round, 60-40 meat-to-fat ratio, ground fresh on-site daily. Served with Torchon Foie Gras, Tomme de Savioe Cheese, Maple Bourbon Caramelized Onions and Baby Arugula. This Cheeseburger = Heaven on a Plate.
Hand-cut fries served atop Green Tabasco Aioli, sprinkled with…. BACON FAT POWDER. Yesssss.
Left: Brad Radack, Karl Pfleider & Frank Deloach; Right: Brad Radack
Prime 6-Ounce Hangar Steak with creamed spinach and garlic chips – This steak is cooked a perfect medium-rare and is so tender, it melts in your mouth like butta’
One of the coolest, most interactive items on the menu, “Our Bread, Your Butter” – just shake the mason jar and the marbles inside turn the cream into fresh, salty, perfectly-handmade butter after 40 seconds of shaking
Left: Frank Deloach; Right: Jason Quinn expedites
Karl Pfleider & Frank Deloach, kickin’ a** & takin’ names
Handmade Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi in Mushroom Ragu (yep – even the Ricotta is made in-house!)
Frank Deloach & Brad Radack, turnin’ up the heat in The Playground kitchen
Orange Jidori Chicken Wings with fried rice; Jidori is the Japanese term that literally means “Chicken of the Earth” – a.k.a. vegetarian-fed, free-range chicken that is delivered within 24 hours of slaughter, guaranteeing its freshness. So fresh & bacteria-free, you could eat it raw. (Not that you have to – but, you could!)
Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto di Parma and a whole-grain mustard vinaigrette
Left: Jason Quinn; Right: Karl Pfleider
PEI Mussels with white wine, crema, perfectly-caramelized onions and plenty of thick toast for dipping
Left: April Ventura; Right: Brad Radack
Desserts by Black Market Bakery. Left: Thanksgiving Woopie Pie; Right: Farmers Daughter Pudding