Restaurant: Playground [1, 2]
Location: 220 East 4th Street. Santa Ana, CA 92701. Phone: (714) 560-4444
Date: June 9, 2013
Cuisine: Modern American Tapas
Rating: Amazing experience!
I ubered all the way down to Santa Ana (1.5 hours) to join some of my Burghound friends for some great eats and an obscene amount of great Burgundy.
The restaurant is located in a fairly low rent mall in Santa Anna.
Chef Jason Quinn has created this very LA zeitgeist restaurant oddly tucked in low end Santa Ana. It’s mobbed, fairly reasonable, and serves up creative tasty, fatty, modern American tapas. There is also a secret Invitation Only 2.0 room in the back, which I’ve visited before. One of the many pluses of this remote destination is free corkage!
Krug Champagne Rose. Burghound 94. A wonderfully fresh and exuberant nose of crushed berries, pure raspberry and background hints of yeast leads to crisp, intense and gorgeously precise flavors that etch themselves onto the palate, all wrapped in a deep and layered finish that seems to go on without end. This is a great example of the genre and one that will age well for at least another decade yet because of the admirable concentration, it can be approached now as well with pleasure. I personally would be inclined to wait a few years but it’s not complete infanticide even now.
Shaved ???, Country Line Baby Greens, Poached Cranberry, Spiced Sherry Vinaigrette, Candied Pecans.
The ??? was of course: foie gras. This was a great salad, with a nice mesh between the fatty foie and the sweetness of the berries and pecans and the acidic dressing.
2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 91-93. Here the nose offers yet another step up in refinement with an almost delicate nose of acacia blossom, citrus and wet stone that leads to linear and precise flavors of crystalline purity, all wrapped in a long, dry, serious and explosive finish that displays a penetrating minerality. A classic Perrières.
Pan Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Charred Scallion Puree, Aerated Garlic Milk, Masago, Slow Egg.
The slow egg is a sous vide egg (they love the sous vide here).
You mix it all up like so. It makes a rich earthy mushroom dish.
2009 Bouchard Aîné et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 93-96. A cool, fresh and densely fruited nose of crushed citrus, green apple and mineral reduction gives way to seriously concentrated and overtly muscular flavors that possess a suave and silky mouth feel yet do not lack for an underlying reserve of power. This isn’t as fine as the Montrachet but it’s even longer, at least at present with a chewy character that provides evidence of the massive levels of extract. Even so, don’t buy this with the intention of drinking it young as it will require plenty of cellar time, at least if you want to see its full potential realized.
A baby from Magnum, although it had been open for hours.
Grilled Quail, Parmesan Polenta, Caramelized Cipollini, Frisse.
The quail was perfectly cooked, but too salty. The polenta was gorgeous. Overall, it was a quite tasty dish, but bordering on salt lick territory.
1986 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne. Burghound 92. Clean, pure and still quite tight on the nose with medium weight, intense, beautifully delineated flavors that simply ooze minerality. This isn’t especially dense but it is extremely pretty and finishes with outstanding length. Tasted twice with consistent notes.
Still very young and rich.
Hamachi Aguachile, Tomatillo Water, Avocado, Radish, Tortilla, Cilantro.
This was the weakest dish tonight. The fish was a little fishy and the overall tone was slightly bitter (maybe the radish?).
2001 Maison Leroy Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières. Burghound 88. Noticeable secondary aromas infused with honey and exotic notes lead to remarkably dense, full, rich and powerful flavors that carry the classic minerality of a fine Perrières that continues onto the solidly persistent finish. This will clearly be capable of aging for many years but I have concerns that the nose will turn tertiary and I would be drinking it sooner than later to enjoy the freshness of the fruit.
I don’t know what Meadows was thinking, as this was a gorgeously rich MP.
Wagyu Ribeeye Tartare, Soy & Egg Emulsion, Shallot, Chive, Masago.
You can see reoccurring ingredients here. The egg. The Masago. Regardless, this was a very tasty tartar.
2006 Coche-Dury Meursault. Burghound 89. An expressive and attractively layered nose of citrus, yellow orchard fruits and a hint of roasted nuts trimmed in a note of subtle wood toast that is also picked up by the rich, full and generous flavors that possess a seductively textured and balanced finish that delivers fine intensity and impressive persistence for a villages level wine. Recommended.
Very reduced, but gorgeous.
Hillary’s Pappardelle, Pork & San Marzano Tomato Sugo, Caramelized Onion, Pecorino.
He loves that Caramelized Onion (and relatives). This was a nice pasta. There was a real acidic bite to the porky ragu.
2009 Domaine Fourrier Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques Vieille Vigne. Burghound 93. This storied terroir often produces one of the most elegant and sophisticated of all the 26 Gevrey 1ers with the gorgeously refined red berry fruit and floral nose suffused by an almost pungent minerality that continues onto the supple, fresh and vibrant medium-bodied flavors that possess excellent concentration and a stunning, even explosive if firmly structured finish. This is an intense wine of harmony and drive with everything it needs for a long life.
Opened criminally young, there was lots of fruit, and tons of unresolved oak. Not pleasant at this stage to my taste.
Awesome. Perfectly cooked, this chicken was soaked in a slightly spicy vinegar. Kind of like upscale hot wings they had a juicy tang.
1995 Domaine Dujac Charmes-Chambertin. Burghound 87. Pretty and very elegant fruit trimmed with noticeable earth but the flavors are surprisingly light and simply and don’t display the typical Charmess richness either. This is by no means flawed but its curiously indifferent. As there is good structure and decent balance, my score and drinking range offer the benefit of the doubt.
I thought it was corked. So did other. Some thought it was just 95 Dujac Charmes. Either way it was funky and bitter.
Jidori Khao Soi, Crispy Shallots, Red Onion, Roasted Peanuts, Cilantro Stems, Chile Oil, Lime, Bean Sprouts, Pickled Cabbage, Crispy Noodles.
These are the condiments for the curry soup. You can add them to taste. The soup was delicious, particularly given that I LOVE LOVE red curries. It could have used more noodles, or at least a spoon and some white rice. We had to pass it around but there wasn’t a single spoon on the table so all that curry went to waste.
From my cellar: 2000 Domaine Denis Bachelet Charmes-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes. Burghound 91. Knockout aromas of kirsch and red fruit frame medium weight flavors brimming with sap and the finish is all silk and lace. This is supremely elegant and worth a special search to find if you love vibrant, super elegant Burgundy. Absolutely brilliant for the vintage and while this will repay limited aging, it is approachable now.
Still young, but by far the best and most balanced of tonight’s red Burgundies.
Tails & Trotters Pork Short Ribs, Baby Carrots, Country Line Baby Turnips & Chard, Pork Jus.
Normally, I don’t go in for the whole Gregor Clegane pig feet thing, but these sweet and fatty niblets of pig were pretty amazing.
2006 Domaine Denis Bachelet Charmes-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes. Burghound 91-94. Despite being harvested first, this is clearly the ripest wine in the range where the wonderfully dense fruit is highlighted by a background touch of wood that continues onto the refined, pure and concentrated flavors that are supported by dense but fine tannins and flat out terrific length. This is a lovely wine in every respect and while not exactly understated, everything does seem to be in perfect proportion.
Very nice, but still way too young.
Wagyu Outside Skirt Steak, Sauce Bearnaise, Blumenthal Potatoes.
Good, albeit rich (like everything here). He loves that frisee.
1994 Dominus Estate Napanook Vineyard. IWC 97. Saturated deep red-ruby. Knockout nose combines currant, Cuban tobacco, earth, tar, bacon fat, cedar, leather and game; conveys an impression of totally ripe, almost roasted fruit. Lush and sweet; already offers extraordinary inner-mouth flavor and great depth. One of those rare wines that too big for the mouth. Finishes with great velvety texture and magical persistence. Mouthdusting, building tannins coat the entire palate.
Very very Bordeaux-like. A smoke bomb.
Talk about a slab of meat. It tasted like sweet ham.
“Bacon & Eggs” Mazemen Ramen, House Bacon, Slow Egg, Garlic Chips, Fancy Nori, Beautiful Soy, Yuzu Koshu.
There’s that bacon, slow egg, and garlic again. You mix this sucker up and it tastes like deeply smoked bacon noodles. Really really yummy.
Curd & Cookies, Blood Orange, Poppyseed Shortbread, Whip.
A nice lemony custard.
Tea Team, Meyer Lemon Cake, Matcha Milk Crumb, White Chocolate.
Sweet and pleasant.
Black Mission Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Oh yeah! I ate most of it.
Dark Chocolate Pistachio Tart, Pistachio Semifredo.
Like some kind of Baccio type Southern Italian ice cream dessert. Very chocolatey.
Overall, another great night. Wine-wise, our whites were far better than our reds, which were in general way too young (and one was corked). Pretty much all the whites were fabulous, particularly after being open 2-3 hours.
As to the food: Playground is incredibly tasty. Very Gastropub, as he emphasizes fat and flavor. Sure, things are very modern, playful, and experimental, which leads to some goofs, plus the chef is obsessed with certain ingredients. But overall it’s very reasonable and really fun and yummy. Oh yeah, and they don’t charge any corkage!