Deep, dark, al dente, and powerful: the khao soi at the Playground
Deep, dark, al dente, and powerful: the khao soi at the Playground
Dave Lieberman

Eat This Now: Khao Soi at Playground

Remember last year, or maybe it was the year before, when the mavens at Playground started playing around with ramen? They started out with a pretty good product and then, as the days and weeks wore on, it improved. Now they're doing it with the Thai noodle dish khao soi.

Khao soi isn't a newcomer to OC--our Mexican-in-Chief has been beating the peanut noodles drum since before Dubya began his swift slide into irrelevance--but one of the only places to get it is at Bangkok Taste in Santa Ana.

Playground, then, is reviving this 1990s classic. Their first few attempts were good, but not life-altering; the most recent iteration I had blew it out of the water. The bowl is simple enough: al dente egg noodles from Sun Noodles in Compton in a rich, viscous peanut-coconut curry, with whatever meat is on the menu (chicken, in this case) buried inside the bowl. It's topped with a small mountain of crispy noodles for texture contrast.

Unusually for the Playground, where dishes come out of the kitchen ready to be eaten and alterations are politely (unless you're a jerk) declined, the khao soi comes with a table salad of garnishes for you to doctor up your own soup. Pickled cabbage, onion, herbs, roasted peanuts, lime, bean sprouts, fried shallots, chile oil... you make it your own.

There are rumors flying around that the Playground team will be opening a noodle bar in the market opening across the street from their flagship restaurant; if so, we hope they'll keep this khao soi on the menu, and plenty of chile oil to go with it.

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