Recently, my friends and I were debating the perfect dinner destination spot to meet for our Girl’s Night out. This was no easy task considering the distances involved: we would be coming from Los Angeles, Laguna, Long Beach, and Santa Monica.
The meeting date happened to coincide with a birthday, so we allowed the birthday girl to choose the restaurant.
“Stasha, without a doubt,” she told me. “I want to celebrate at Five Crowns.”
It turns out the first time my friend visited Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar, she was only 19 and too young to go into the bar. She’d been dreaming about going back ever since. Five Crowns was where she wanted to ring in the “big” one – this time with a celebratory cocktail in her hand.
Since it’s opening in 1965, the historic landmark has been a destination spot for birthdays, graduations, weddings, family reunions, anniversaries and all festive holidays. You know the kind, those once-a-year, annual gatherings. Granted, my friends and I were celebrating a birthday, but upon arrival, and throughout the course of our dinner, we discovered that Five Crowns is not just for special occasions anymore.
Five Crowns underwent a magnificent transformation and renovation this past May, giving the interior a much-needed spring cleaning and a welcome breath of fresh air. Maintaining the classic, English Inn-style, they have lightened up a bit – which is very appealing. New, hardwood floors have replaced old carpets, while innovative light fixtures, antique furniture, decorative objects and photographs add to the inviting warmth.
Five Crowns has found the perfect balance of traditional elegance, English tea-coziness, casual comfort and hip sophistication.
The addition of new Executive Chef Ryan O’Melveny and Chef de Cuisine Bryon Freeze has also brought some youthful vim and vigor to the Five Crowns’ culinary staff. The menu has seen some inspired changes as a direct result of the new blood.
As my friends and I perused the menu, we noted the seasonal influences in various dishes. Our server announced the specials and asked if we were ready to order.
“I know what I’m having,” one of my girlfriends announced. “The Creamy Sunchoke Soup with preserved cherry tomatoes and toasted hazelnuts, and the Seared Duck Breast with crispy spaetzle, butternut squash and roasted grapes.”
“Oooh, that looks good,” I noted.
“I’m having the Seared Dayboat Scallops on cauliflower purée, Vadouvan curry, and key lime,” my other friend added. “As well as the Roasted Trout Amandine with emer farro and mustard greens.”
“Oh, that was what I was …” I began.
“I’m going traditional, all the way,” interjected the birthday girl. “Grass-fed Steak Tartare and the Roasted Prime Rib with Yorkshire pudding and creamed corn.”
All eyes turned to me.
“You guys ordered what I wanted,” I sighed, looking up at the waitress. “Give me a second, please.”
At that moment, Chef Freeze appeared at our table to answer any questions.
“Bryon, the menu looks fantastic,” I said. “But I want something seasonal, something you don’t offer regularly. What should I order?”
“Most definitely the Grilled Veal Chop,” he smiled at me. “It’s served with braised cabbage and heirloom apple gastrique. It’s one of my favorites.”
The smile was my undoing. Did I mention that not only are Bryon Freeze and Ryan O’Melveny Wilson extremely skilled, talented and charming, but with their handsome good looks they belong in a “Twilight” movie?
“Whatever you say, Chef,” I grinned. “How’s the Crispy Rock Shrimp?”
“Also very good, “ Freeze nodded. “The tomato foam and horseradish aioli are amazing compliments.”
“Done,” I stated. “Bryon, I’m impressed with all the autumnal ingredients you’ve incorporated into the menu.”
“Thank you. While we are very passionate about maintaining traditional favorites here at Five Crowns, we’re inspired by all the locally-sourced, seasonal produce, cheeses, meats and fish that are available here on the coast,” he said. “We have an unbelievable staff that are enthusiastic, creative and motivated to bring Five Crowns to the next level of dining.”
“In that case we’ll have the Roasted Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts and the Creamed Spinach, too,” laughed the birthday girl.
“Fantastic. Let’s get you started,” he waved as he headed back to the kitchen.
Our evening proceeded flawlessly. To say the food was amazing is an understatement. The appetizers were gobbled up – the Steak Tartare and Sunchoke soup were the hits.
Our entrées arrived and we shared each morsel with absolute delight, passing the plates around the table saying, “You’ve got to try this, it’s fabulous.”
By the time dessert was offered, we were close to bursting. But it was our friend’s birthday, so we ordered the Dark Chocolate Soufflé with Devonshire double cream, Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Figs, Apple-Blueberry Crisp and Seasonal Gelati.
The evening was a wonderful mix of traditional and seasonal. The attention to detail, excellent service and intimate ambiance was one of the most memorable experiences we’ve all had in a long time. And it wasn’t because of our friend’s birthday. We’re getting together in Corona del Mar again soon, because any night of the week at Five Crowns is the perfect Girl’s Night.