Sherman's Food Adventures: Playa Provisions

Playa Provisions

I'm not afraid to admit it.  Sometimes I buy into the hype and seek out restaurants featuring and/or operated by Top Chef alumni.  I've had some really good experiences with some spots such as Juniper & Ivy, Knife and Toup's.  However, I'm also acutely aware that there will be less-than-stellar places as well.  So I guess I tried to have realistic hopes when I met up with Jess at Playa Provisions while I was in Los Angeles.  Yet, with Brooke Wiliamson attached to this place, I couldn't help but have elevated expectations as well.

We went big with our starter with the Shellfish Tower featuring 12 oysters, 1/2 Maine lobster, 6 jumbo shrimp, 3 Scallops with navel orange nuoc cham and 1/2 dungeness crab.  This was a hefty $150.00 and in some sense, it was worth it due to the sweet and briny silver devil and blue fox oysters as well as the beautifully buttery tender and sweet scallops.  The prawns were excellent too with a nice meaty snap and all of the sweet aromatics that go with it.  Even the lobster was on point with its unmistakable aroma and rebound texture.  The problem was the dungeness crab.  It was spongy and lacked the fluffiness and taste of the sea freshness.  It wasn't very good.  So for that, we were disappointed.

We also had the Watermelon & Whipped Feta with cucumber, kalamata olives, red onion, oregano and olive brine vinaigrette.  This was rather refreshing and did come through with the promise of creamy whipped feta.  The olive brine was a good contrast to the sweet watermelon.  I personally love olives and welcomed the salty tang they added to the dish.  I thought the red onion might've added too much sharpness to the mix, but I'm sure that could be subjective.

Onto the Salt Cod Clam Chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl, it featured meaty smoked pancetta on top.  As you can see in the picture, there was a bevy of fresh Manila clams (in the shell) peaking out from the chowder.  This was pretty good with a rich broth that was a semi-thick viscosity.  Would've liked to see more bininess, but the clams were definitely there.  Salt cod was prepared properly where there was flavor without being salty.  It was rehydrated well as it was flaky and moist.

The one thing that caught my eye on the menu was the Connecticut-Style Lobster Roll sporting dungeness crab, lobster, shrimp, tarragon and chives in warm lobster buttered brioche.  This was pretty good despite the spongy dungeness crab.  As you can see, there was a good amount of seafood that provided a good ratio to the soft bread.  Of course the butter helped with both texture and flavor.  Overall a good seafood roll.

Viv had opted for the crispy battered version of the Playa Fish Tacos.  It was topped with Meyer lemon kohlrabi slaw, caperberry remoulade and cilantro in a corn tortilla.  This was good with flaky and moist fish sporting a light crispy batter.  The slaw was crunchy and fresh with nice acidity.  Creamy with saltiness and tang, the remoulade was a good alternative to tartar sauce.  Would've liked to see more fish though.

So my daughter went back to the well and got her ol' standby being the Fish & Chips.  Now these were essentially the pieces of fish found in the tacos.  Not a bad thing though as they were just as crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside.  However, the size of the fish left a lot to be desired.  Instead of fries, we found crispy potato wedges that were not that crispy.  They were a touch dense.  The tartar was creamy with a nice bite and they didn't skimp on the malt vinegar.

My son didn't do seafood and went for the Patty Melt with dry aged beef, gruyere, caramelized onion, "Beechwood" BBQ sauce and arugula on marble rye.  For a predominantly seafood-focused menu, this item was actually one of the better ones.  The aged beef was moist and tender with plenty of umaminess.  It was nicely accented by the sweet onions as well as the melted cheese.  The tangy sweetness of the BBQ sauce added another layer of flavor.

One of the more disappointing dishes was the Grilled Swordfish.  Now I'm pretty familiar with swordfish, so I realize that it isn't the most moist and light out fish out there.  However, this one was more chewy than usual and hence, we didn't enjoy eating it.  Too bad really as the accompaniments were great including baby corn, green peppercorn and sungold tomato puttanesca.  This provided sweetness, bite and also tanginess.  Very bright and appealing.

As a side to his patty melt, my son also ordered the Crab Mac & Cheese sporting dungeness crab, parm and breadcrumbs.  For this application, the spongy crab worked as it was further baked with cheese on top.  Hence, we weren't looking for fluffy, instead, we were expecting crab flavor and it delivered.  The pasta was al dente and was coated with enough cheesiness to make an impact.  This was one of the better dishes we had.

One last side was the Creamed Cornbread that turned out to be more cream of corn with some cornbread.  Not that it was a bad thing though, as this was delicious.  It was creamy for sure, but also had impactful natural sweetness accented by fire roasted poblano & black truffle relish and sottocenere crumbles.  Lots of umaminess and slight tanginess from the relish while the cheese crumble added some nuttiness.  Overall, the food was good with a few things we didn't enjoy.  For most restaurants, that would be more than acceptable.  However, given the expectations we had, it didn't deliver.  Is that fair?  I'm not really sure, but just being real as to how we felt.

The Good:
- Outstanding service
- Nice ambiance
- Some good dishes

The Bad:
- The dungeness crab was just not good
- Parking is hard to find, but they do have valet


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