OC Review: Playground, Santa Ana

mivyrh-mivyq2pThe burger at Playground. (Photo by Cindy Yamanaka, OC Register)

Playground’s printed manifesto says, among other things, “Please take the wording on our menu very seriously.”

OK, fair enough. So I’m reading the menu, wondering how seriously I should interpret a dish called “You Wanna Be A Baller, Shot Caller, 20 Inch Rims on the Impalla!!!” At $40, it’s the most expensive item on the brunch menu. “What exactly is it?” I ask.“It’s the best steak and eggs you’ll ever eat,” our server says, explaining that it’s a rib eye steak with two fried eggs and crisp potatoes. And he’s probably right. I can’t remember when I’ve had a better steak and eggs.

Part of the fun of dining at Playground is not knowing what to expect. Pretty much the entire menu is new every day. Even the handful of mainstays are constantly evolving.

Consider the ramen. It’s called Quest for Ramen Perfection, and each day the menu lists the numerical sequence of that day’s attempt at devising the perfect bowl of ramen. On the day I sample it, version 52 I believe, it is pretty great, a large ceramic bowl loaded with fistfuls of meltingly soft pork belly and a hefty clump of appropriately springy noodles. It’s topped with one of those trendy, slow-poached eggs with a thick, gooey yolk that dissolves in slow motion. The broth is sweeter than my ideal, but I still love it. Ramen is like snowflakes. No two bowls anywhere will be identical. And know this: If you’re someone who likes to add hot sauce to your ramen, sorry. They don’t allow modifications of any kind. According to its manifesto, the restaurant will “only sell a perfect experience.” Of course perfection will be defined by the chef, never the customer.

Read the full review online at the OC Register.

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