Five Crowns Celebrates 50 Year Legacy with Commemorative Menu

Few restaurants in Orange County can boast having been a part of the community for decades, much less half a century, but Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar has proudly reached that milestone. For 50 years, the classic restaurant has seen the likes of many and left tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of diners happy and feeling spoiled. It is also a favorite for celebrating special occasions but 2015 is the year for Five Crowns to celebrate its own special moment. The Lawry's family and Executive Chef Steve Kling have released an unprecedented menu along with new beverages that highlights not only popular classics but also modern soon-to-be favorites. This menu also stands apart from past ones in variety, offering nearly triple the amount of choices and even new family-style selections. In a media preview dinner, I was able to experience just how exciting this release will be for guests to come.

“It’s a family tradition that my grandfather started almost 50 years ago and to see it continue and thrive today is truly inspiring.” - Corporate Executive Chef and Vice President Ryan O'Melveny Wilson
The celebratory menu features classic dishes that have been rejuvenated from the past to showcase where the restaurant has progressed to. Moving forward with its heritage, Five Crowns seeks to build upon the sturdy base by giving deeper and more thoughtful investment into their already-admirable sourcing of ingredients. Chef Wilson highlighted his recent activity in buffing up their beef program, having traveled to Nebraska and Kansas to meet with producers to identify very specific needs. He has also gone up and down the west coast searching for grass-fed beef producers that can meet Five Crowns' own standards. If seafood is more your style, the restaurant has partnerships with local fishermen and their hauls in the early morning from the dory fleets. Wondering about their produce? A vegetable garden next door is in the works to not only inspire creative creations from the chefs but also to provide the freshest source possible for herbs and vegetables.

To start off the dinner that evening, we were privy to tray-passed morsels including samplings of their Crab & Avocado Mash ($13) and a new beverage called Poppy Love (13 - botanist gin, poppy liqueur, foro amaro, and fig & cinnamon bitters). Created by SideDoor's lead bartender, Amber Billiard, the drink itself is inspired by the regulars that visit who live on Poppy Ave near the restaurant. An apertif to stimulate appetite, the cocktail is a good example of the driving force behind the new beverage program - a seasonal approach. Billiard explained that the inspiration derives from what is growing in the area as well as the chef's creative dishes which allow the two to bounce ideas off of one another. In regards to actual tastes though, she is motivated to invoke nostalgia with each sip whether it is from a childhood memory or a favorite trip abroad; emotions are the goal. Later in the evening, we also had the Garden of Eden Gimlet ($13 - prairie cucumber vodka, lavender, honey syrup, lime, and absinthe), a deceivingly refreshing libation showing tribute to Billiard's self-proclaimed obsession with absinthe. I also enjoyed A Cocktail Named Elvis (Scotch, peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon) later in the evening which tasted exactly like liquified boozy peanut butter - amazing.

If you are interested in wines more than mixed drinks, Five Crowns takes pride in their selection there as well. Guided by the stories of each of the wines, the selection follows the same sourcing themes as the restaurant itself. The idea of the winemaker being a farmer first and winemaker second permeates the labels, and 95% or more of them can boast being green in some shape or form (solar-powered, dry farming, organic, biodynamic, etc). However, the wine director did point out that one should not focus on that aspect because it is what winemakers ought to be doing anyhow. Overall, they have a fine selection including a handful of boutique wines that are a little harder to find so you won't be left out of the loop if you opt to drink something other than a cocktail.

Not only will Five Crowns be commemorating the momentous occasion with their food and beverage renovations but they will also have some interior renovations of their own, particularly a new bar by late summer in the greenhouse. Working closely with the same builders they did with Sidedoor, the team plans to spruce up the building overall as well including graphics and uniforms to energize and give new life to their 50 years of being around. We're excited to see the changes!

But you wonder now about what is new with the food. A glass of 2013 Tangent Albarino, Edna Valley accompanied their Fruits del Mar shared platter for the table composed of 1/2 dozen Kushi oysters from Washington with a Meyer lemon and scallion mignonette, the Smoked Trout Dip ($13 - with pickled shallots and crostini), and Grilled Shrimp Cocktail ($13 - marinated with lime zest, fresh mint, and guajillo chile and paired with cocktail sauce and cilantro). Everything here was spot on delicious. Moving onto the salads, we were presented with two types: their simpler Beet & Strawberry Salad ($12 - arugula, sunflower seeds, and fromage blanc) and the Winter Citrus Salad ($12 - oro blanco, grapefruit, fennel, tomato, watercress, salanova lettuces) paired with 2013 Miraval Rose, Cotes de Provence. Fresh and fruitful, they were both well-balanced and light.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the 50th anniversary menu has nearly triple the amount of items is because there are several options for the same protein. Take for example Five Crowns' salmon offering - guests can choose the Farm, Field & Sea section the Seared Scottish Salmon ($30 - asparagus, lentils, and dill butter), a more modern version, or indulge in a revamped Classic at the restaurant, the Potato Horseradish Crusted Salmon ($34 - mustard cream sauce and sauteed haricot verts). Everyone tried a bit of both with a glass of 2013 Cade Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, and the audience seemed divided on which was the more preferred. Beef did not escape this duality either as the option available on the Farm, Field & Sea section is their Grilled Ribeye ($42/55 - baby squash, cipollini onion, fingerling potato, and cognac demi-glace) while the Classic section features the Beefsteak Neptune ($48 - filet mignon, crab, asparagus, potato, and bernaise). Paired with a bit of 2012 Passenger Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, the night was set. Dessert spoiled the group as two options arrived as well - the Palet D'Or (cocoa nibs) and Meyer Lemon Steamcake (champagne berries) with some MV Henriot Brut Rose, Reims to finish.

In addition to all of these adjustments to food, beverage, and design, there is also a hush-hush experience to be had. On certain nights, you can find your way into a secret lounge (speakeasy, they say) upstairs with the right access credentials. There, indulge in appetizers and exclusive drinks as well shared table taps for enjoying absinthe you order. My hat's off to Five Crowns for hitting their 50 year mark, and I hope that there are many, many more years to come to this success in Orange County.

All photography provided by Five Crowns.