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“The best”
Review of The Playground

The Playground
Ranked #1 of 696 Restaurants in Santa Ana
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $30 - $50
Cuisines: American, International, Gastropub
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Late Night, Breakfast, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Cross street: Spurgeon
Description: NOTE: We're doing major renovations that will require us to close the restaurant from July 18 through July 29. We're sorry if this causes you any convenience. Chef driven, ingredient driven affordable small plates and craft cocktails and beers. A young and creative team of chefs led by Executive Chef, Jason Quinn, change up the menu daily to keep the dining experience fresh and exciting. Orange County's "Best Bartender" making exciting craft cocktails and Santa Ana's best beer program, with 15 craft beers on tap and approximately 60 bottled beers, including many rarities. The dining experience is different at Playground: You're expected to share, so don't think in terms of my dish or your dish, and we're stubborn about our no-modification rule. If you're adventurous you'll probably love it; if you need control over your dish preparation, you probably won't.
Reviewed August 25, 2013

Awesome. Is there much more to say? Just try new items. The food is so interesting we laugh every time we taste something new.
Some things not to miss if they have them: pork belly buns, cauliflower nachos, the burger (not on the menu, just ask for it).
This is tapas style. share everything, go slowly and enjoy.
Yes it is in Santa Ana but that is part of the fun. We live in Irvine but because of our experiences at the Playground we rarely go to Newport or Laguna restaurants anymore. We try to go the the Playground a few times a month and the other restaurants in Santa Ana once or twice a week.

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1  Thank gmgOc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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137 - 141 of 186 reviews

Reviewed August 22, 2013

Santa Ana itself has not been the best neighborhood lately but in the middle of the chaos, I'm glad playground is here. The chef are very straight forward, no substitution, and menu changes daily. The chef's imagination is playful and innovative.

They call them small plates but it's not really small. Each dish can be shared 2-3 people with a few bites here and there. Enough to satisfy your palette.

Dish 1 was Fried Cauliflower, Mojo Verde, Sultanas, Almond, Capers. Vegan? yes. Am I a vegan? no. Do I hate Vegan? yes Do I love this dish? Hell yes. I've never tasted cauliflower this good. Everything was in harmony. The Mojo Verde has the right acidity partnered nicely with the crunch of the cauliflower. A must order.

Dish 2 was ???? ???? Terrine, Velvet Sunrise, Pine Nut Crumiel, Lime Zest, Black Pepper, Brioche Crisps. The server was excited. Who would be. It's ???? ???? being served in California. If you don't know what ???? ???? is then you're not a foodie. The serving is pretty generous. The terrine was creamy, silky, and rich. 'Nuff said.

Dish 3 was Kurobuta Pork Shoulder Taco Plate, Heirloom Tomato Salsa, Guacamole, Sour Cream, Black Beans. Unfortunately, this was the dish that lost it's 5 star. It was a normal taco plate. Nothing out of the ordinary and it was pretty much something you can get from anywhere except it cost $20 here. The pork however was pretty tasty on it's own though.

Dish 4 was Grilled Wagyu Hangar, Spicy Hatch Chile Polenta, Crunchy Onions, Goat Cheese, Cumin Honey. The Hanger itself was amazingly tender and good. This is a properly aged, well cooked medium rare beef. Good sear on the outside and soft and tender center. It's softer than a filet mignon at Mastro's. The only downfall was the polenta. It does not go well with the beef, it was too sweet for my taste. The beef was gone but the sides were almost untouched.

I would go back again to see what else they can do. I'm happy I found the Playground. Now I want to be invited for their famed Playground tasting courses.

All that for $83. Not bad for what you're getting.

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Thank Jay M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 10, 2013

Small plates; no substitutions; menu changes daily; come early because they run out of popular items; make reservations they book fast; parking on street or around the corner in parking garage; Did I say small plates? well prices are NOT small, so be prepared to pay for this adventure. You can share plates, but usually only enough for two (we were 5). Desserts were yummy, we cleaned the plates.

Thank galisgr8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 1, 2013

We had the Playground Sunday evening clean-out-the-kitchen meal and enjoyed it thoroughly. We had 13 or 14 courses (including three desserts). Each was very good and several were phenomenal. The pacing was very quick, but I think we were the last table seated. The staff was friendly and responsive.

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Thank too_few_trips_1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 29, 2013

Being a huge fan of the Great Food Truck Race, I very much looked forward to trying out Chef Jason Quinn's food. The restaurant is located is a new hip area called East End Santa Ana. It has quite a bit of shaded outdoor seating underneath some mature trees. Made reservations for early dinner on a Friday night and was immediately given their rules over the phone (reserved tables could be held no longer than 10 minutes beyond rsvp time, meal must be done within 2 hours), which I respect and have no problems with.

Upon arrival, we got seated immediately. Servers and host were very nice and friendly. Server explained how everything works - family style so everyone gets to try more variety, entree will arrive immediately upon completion, ever-changing menu with no substitution. I wouldn't have it any other way. Sort of reminds me of 1 of my fave movies, The Last Holiday.

Here's the food:

Kurobuta Pork Belly Steam Bun with Guacamole: This was the highlight of the entire meal. Imagine peking duck-style bun wrapped around a moist perfectly cooked thick slice of pork belly with creamy yet bit spicy guac topped with a slice of radish. It was so good that we ordered a 2nd round. Clean flavors, perfectly cooked pork belly, simply delish!

I Trust 15 sashimi freestyle/endless possibilities: This is where the mis-communication is. Based on the server's description, it sounded like a concoction of different sashimis determined by the chef. Further the item description reads, "15 sashimi." What came out was an order of sea urchin sliced up and sitting on a bed of sweet corn and cubed watermelon soup. Being a sea urchin connoisseur, I have tasted fresher and sweeter sea urchin. The sweet corn and cubed watermelon was tasty but I'm not sure this item was worth $15. So, the "15" refers to the price, not 15 pieces of sashimis.

Wagyu Tri Tip, Crispy Potatoes, Chayote, Charred Corn, Chipotle Crema, Pasilla Pepper: This dish was overall tasty, but there were some areas on the plate that had overwhelmingly more salt than another area on the plate. This could be a result of a final hand sprinkling of salt over the dish after everything was put together, instead of the salt being incorporated during the food preparation. Would I order this again? Probably not.

Black Mission Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding: Everyone raved about this, so I had to order and try. This reminds me of a miniature moist bundt cake (without the hole in the center) sitting in a bed of gooey caramel sauce topped with salted creme fraiche. The seeds from the figs gave it a nice texture. The cake was yummy, but the caramel sauce was too sweet for my taste buds. However, the salted creme fraiche gave a good contrast to the overall sweetness of the dessert.

I would definitely go back for special occasions to try other culinary creations not found anywhere else.

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1  Thank TravelWithRiley
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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