Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Golden Anniversary for an OC Restaurant Treasure


Five Crowns
3801 East Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

A lot of the time when you get an email it's not a good thing. It could be your boss asking for that report you were supposed to have done already, or it's your phone company politely asking you to pay your overdue bill, or it may even be your great aunt Lydia asking you to come out to Arkansas for a family reunion. I'm probably averaging about one email that I actually want, out of about thirty that I receive. One email that automatically caught my eye was an invite to come try out the new menu offerings from Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar. I couldn't reply that I would be there quickly enough.

Five Crowns is truly an OC institution. They are celebrating their 50th year in 2015, and not one to rest on their laurels, they have many great things planned for this year. First and foremost, they have expanded their menu. Yes, they are still going to have everyone's favorite prime rib and accompaniments, but they have also added three times the selections to their old menu. They are luring new diners into their restaurant by really focusing on much more than their prime rib. They also want you to think of Five Crowns as a restaurant where you can not only get great beef, but there are other options for people that want something else.

On their menu now are many new starters, plenty of seafood options, and a variety of small plates for people that are not big eaters. It's not all new on the menu though. Five Crowns has brought back what they call Crown Classics, which are items from the past that they have put back on the menu, but with a modern twist. So if you remember having the Horseradish Crusted Salmon or the Colorado Lamb Chop before, get back in here and have the updated version.

Not to be outdone by the food, there's also a new beverage program at Five Crowns. Their wine list has expanded to three times its original size, with a new curated section of the list, which is inspired by customer requests. If you favor a certain wine, and give them a heads up, you might just see your wine featured here at Five Crowns. The cocktail list is evolving here as well. There are some real noteworthy hand crafted cocktails that will get everyone's curiosity piqued. There's also a secret cocktail menu, which is in a secret space, which we will get to later. Now it was time to try some of the new food items from the new Five Crowns menu.  



Tray passed appetizers were up first, as the assembled food media were mingling, and I was just trying not to make a fool out of myself in such esteemed company. Off of the Fruits Del Mar section of the menu, this Crab and Avocado Mash ($13) started things off nicely. Crisp pita chips are topped with fresh crab, avocado, and a light lime dressing, which gave this a little zing in the flavor department. A very simple item, but done very nicely.


The next appetizer we had was from the small plates portion of the menu, the Duck Rillette ($15). To be honest, I really did not know what a rillette was at the time of eating this, but I now know it's kind of like a pate. Sliced meat, or duck in this case, is cooked slowly in its own fat, then shredded and cooked until it forms a paste. This version also involved brandy, and was then spread across a toasted crostini. A delicious result. The wonderful smoky duck flavor came through, and the crunch of the bread added a nice texture. The brandy flavor was very subtle, but allowed for the natural flavor of the duck to shine.



Nothing got us to our seats quicker than them bringing out these Fruits Del Mar Grand Platters ($55) to each table. On this night the platter featured Clams Casino, a Daily Selection of Oysters, Grilled Shrimp, and Smoked Trout Dip. This was a pretty impressive seafood platter that would please any lover of things from the ocean. The shrimp were large and briny, the oysters were very fresh, and even Katie enjoyed one of them, (a major feat for this non-loving oyster girl). The clams were done in a classic casino style, with lighter than normal bread crumbs and bacon, as not to interfere completely with the clam underneath. The highlight of this platter for me was the Smoked Trout Dip. One of the best I have had. I had visions of stashing this in Katie's purse, and making a trout dip sandwich with it the next day. Decorum reigned though, as I was gracious enough to share with my fellow table mates. Even a week later, I still think about this trout dip, it was that good.


Salads were out next, and Katie and I each had a different one, but decided to share them. This Beet and Strawberry Salad ($12) was set in front of me first. I'm usually not one for mixing fruit into my salad, but this was pretty good. Joining the beets and the strawberries here were sunflower seeds, arugula, and a very well made fromage blanc. The freshness was definitely evident here, but I liked the slight sweetness from the strawberry, and how it interacted with the subtle peppery nature of the arugula. This salad hasn't changed my views about fruits in salad, but it has opened my mind up to the fact that this could be a good thing sometimes.


I also got to try this Winter Citrus Salad ($12), which I was a little less a fan of. This one came with greens, watercress, tomato, fennel, ruby red and oro blanco grapefruit. I'd attribute my feelings about this salad to the fact that I'm not really a big fan of grapefruit. Never really liked it, but Katie found this salad to be right in her wheelhouse. She loved the tangy nature of this salad, and the use of fennel and watercress, which she feel doesn't get used enough.




With all the food we have had up until this point, we were pretty relieved to know that we were not getting full servings of the entrees, although I would have been up to the challenge. Maybe next time. They started us off with two fish entrees, Seared Scottish Salmon ($30) and one of their Crown Classic dishes, the Potato Horseradish Crusted Salmon ($34). Both of these salmon dishes were phenomenal. The Scottish version was served on a bed of lentils and asparagus, with a dill butter. Cooked wonderfully, I could have used a little more dill butter on here, but the salmon was moist enough without it. The crusted salmon was not as heavy as I would have imagined. It was served alongside some sauteed haricot verts, (green beans), and a light mustard sauce. For those of you that are not too keen on horseradish, it is really mild on this, and the potato went well with the fish, which I was not expecting. Not sure which one of these I liked more, so I may have to try them again very soon.




You'd probably expect Five Crowns to do beef the right way, right? Yeah, you would win that bet. Just like the salmon plate before, they treated us to two versions of beef on this night. The Grilled Ribeye ($42/$55) came with a cipollini onion and baby squash perched on top of it, and drizzled with a cognac demi-glace. This simple presentation really let the flavor of the meat shine here. Very tender steak, in all its glory. The Beef Steak Neptune ($48) is again off of their Crown Classic section of the menu, and is one of my favorite ways to have steak prepared. The eight ounce filet is situated on top of mashed potatoes, then topped with asparagus, crab, and Bearnaise sauce. This classic Oscar presentation was right on. The Bearnaise sauce had the right consistency, the crab was fresh, and the steak very tender. They definitely do this surf and turf dish well, and I look forward to having this one again.





By this time of the night, I was starting to reach my limit with the food, but there's always room for dessert. To be honest I did not quite catch what these were called, but they were delicious. The chocolate one kind of reminded me of a Hostess Ding Dong in its appearance, but of course it was so much better. Nice and moist chocolate cake, with a very good icing. This will hit the spot for any chocolate lover that walks through the door. The other dessert was a sponge cake, served with mixed berries and whipped cream sitting on top of the cake. This one was all Katie, as I'm much more into chocolate, rather than fruit desserts. There are two other desserts on the menu here at Five Crowns that should also be tried. The C.C. Browns Hot Fudge Sundae is a classic, and the Dark Chocolate Souffle takes 40 minutes to prepare, but you'll be glad you waited after having your first bite. Make sure to save room for dessert when dining here.


Earlier in this post I mentioned a secret spot, which not too many people know about, and I've been given the go ahead to let you in on the little secret. There's a hidden speakeasy on the second floor of Five Crowns. Not too many people know about it, and since only me and mom read this blog, it'll probably stay that way. The speakeasy is called the Poppy Club, which is named for the street that Five Crowns is located on. To see about getting reservations, you can email them at 352Poppy@gmail.com  Don't let them know that I was the one to tell you about this though.

Anyways, the vibe upstairs was pretty cool. Piped in, upbeat French music was playing, and every table had an absinthe fountain. The cocktail menu here featured about 5 varieties of absinthe, four bottled beers, some classic cocktails, and signature cocktails. The drink above was from that part of the menu. The Cocktail Named Elvis is a play on what was the King's favorite sandwich. Scotch is combined with peanut butter, banana, some honey, and a bacon garnish. Not sure how, but this concoction really worked. It was delicious, while not being overly sweet. Each of the flavors made its way through in little spurts. Quite a good beverage, and a wonderful way to end our night at the ever evolving Five Crowns.

We would like to thank everyone that made this visit to experience the new Five Crowns menu possible. It was a pleasure meeting General Manager Jim Colombo, Corporate Executive Chef Ryan O'Melveny Wilson, and Steven Kling, Executive Chef at Five Crowns. It was great getting to see their excitement for this new menu first hand. They all seem real passionate about what the future holds for Five Crowns, which in turn got us all excited as well. With this team behind the restaurant, I have no doubt that they have another 50 years in them, at least.

For more information about Five Crowns, and all of the new goings on with their 50th anniversary plans, go to their website here: http://www.lawrysonline.com/five-crowns

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