Why Invitation Only?
One morning, we got a delivery of three suckling pigs. We admired their beauty and pondered what we could do with them. They went into a brine, 7:1:1 (water, salt, brown sugar). We decided that we would have some fun and break down the pigs into shoulders, ribs, loin, hams, and of course, the tasty head. We love pork ribs, but they require long cooking and we were excited about grilling over mesquite at the time. So we went for it. We did the culinary unthinkable: we grilled ribs from raw, with the intention of eating them medium rare. The results were unbelievable. I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt more protective over a plate of food. It was religious. We put the dish on the menu that night, “Grilled Suckling Pig Ribs $16 be ready to eat with your hands.”
I was intensely proud when I sent out the first batch. It was one of the first orders of the night, delivered to a young couple on their first date sitting on table 64. A few minutes later, Brandon brought their plate back to me.
Holding it out to me he said, “They didn’t like it.”
“They said it was hard to eat.”
It was barely touched. My heart sank. Brandon told me they only tried eating it with their silverware. I understand a guest’s desire to be polite and use silverware, but if that is the kind of diner you are, I suppose you’d want to stay clear of an item that demanded use of your hands. So we removed the dish from their tab and threw the food in the trash.
This was six months ago and I still remember it vividly. I will not speak on behalf of other chefs, but I develop an emotional relationship with an ingredient from the second it walks in the door. At every stage of an ingredient’s time at Playground, our best intentions for its ultimate delivery to the guest are calculated and executed. Our new restaurant celebrates these products in exciting fashion, transforming them before your eyes.
Now consider our dilemma: How do we deal with that couple? They had no respect for our food. If they choose to come to Playground that’s one thing. But how could we allow them to come to our intimate little tasting kitchen where their behavior couldn’t help but affect everyone? It occurred to me that for some people, the idea of an omakase style dinner prepared directly in front of them is a nightmare. So we decided we’d invite only the people who we think will enjoy it the most.
How To Be Invited
First, don’t ask to be invited.
Second, make a reservation at Playground and be on time. (Dinner at IO will start promptly and because of the style of service we cannot offer the full experience to anyone who is late.)
Third, respect our rules. (At IO you will not have any decision making authority, so if you feel a need to request modifications, you might feel uncomfortable in that environment.)
Fourth, be polite. The staff is responsible for handing out invitations. At Playground, we are always very much in tune with what is going on at our tables. If people are being rude or difficult, it’s mentioned throughout the chain of command and it has an effect on everyone in the restaurant. If you would like to join us next door, I cannot stress the importance of being nice to our staff.
Fifth, try something new. Don’t worry, if you don’t like it, tell us kindly why not and we will gladly remove it from your bill. And don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you that you didn’t like something. It will actually convince us you’re not afraid to try new things.
Sixth, engage with your server. Be an ideal restaurant guest. Let us show you our passion; trust us.
Seventh, understand that every person in the restaurant wants nothing more than your happiness.
You do that, and we’ll find you.
– Jason Quinn, February, 2013