Five Crowns embodies a multi-layered network of history rarely found in any industry, and one that’s becoming harder and harder to come by in the restaurant world. On one end you have its parent, Lawry’s Restaurants, whose humble beginnings go back to the late 1800’s. Then you’ve got the nearly 100-year-old building that gives Five Crowns an ambiance that simply can’t be replicated, with a dizzying maze of dining niches, bars and beautiful yards that remind you that the property was once a private beachside mansion. And of course you’ve got the restaurant’s own timeline, dating back more than 50 years and embodying its namesake on multiple levels—Literally the fifth crown jewel of Lawry’s, conveniently located in Corona Del Mar, or the ‘crown of the sea.’
While Lawry’s in general has taken powerful steps in modernizing its restaurants, the timeless comforts that give a place like Five Crowns its livelihood remain as strong as ever. Dark wood trimmings, old-fashioned lanterns and the London phone booth outside cast a tone of unknown nostalgia, a perfect setup for your first step through the front door, where you’re taken back to a time you never remember experiencing. Walking through Five Crowns feels like a warm blanket has been placed over your shoulders, with fireplaces lining nearly every corner and jovial conversation dancing across seemingly endless pockets of tables. With bedazzled crowns ‘hidden’ along the old-style wallpaper and a canons hanging by chains from the ceiling, as well as a crowd dressing in everything from flip flops to fine suits, the restaurant embodies enough of a Disney ride to make things even more magical.
Five Crowns’ menu is as iconic as its ambiance. The prime rib that made Lawry’s famous is of course a staple here, masterfully prepared with creamy horseradish (not too spicy, don’t worry), succulent au jus and of course Lawry’s seasoned salt and pepper that may blow the minds of those unaware of the origins of the spice they see in the grocery store all the time (“Oh, that’s where it comes from!”). And Yorkshire pudding and mashed potatoes aside, to order the prime rib without creamed corn would be truly sinful.
Items like the beef bone marrow, with a hearty prime rib beef jam on top, showcase that Five Crowns is unquestionably keeping up with the times. Meanwhile, indulgences like rich lobster bisque and a buttery rack of lamb with wilted spinach and mint jelly demonstrate that this place has roots and is sticking to them. With decades of perfecting their craft, Five Crowns is too strong to shy away from their culinary foundation in favor of the next great food trend. This is a place where fans of classic fine dining will breathe easily and enjoy one dreamful bite after another.
While it’s hard to pass on such famous prime rib, you’ll be undoubtedly wowed by the steak. Five Crowns serves a ribeye for the books, finished with an excellent crust and eye-fluttering tenderness. Pair it, or anything on the menu, for that matter, with a fine wine or contemporary cocktail.
Then there’s dessert. That dark chocolate souffle is another piece of time-tested mastery, but the sticky toffee pudding should certainly be ordered alongside. You’ll thank yourself.
Five Crowns is located at 3801 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625. Open 4:30 – 11p Mon – Sat, 4:30 – 10p Sun. Avg. out-the-door price for appetizer, entrée, split dessert and 1 – 2 drinks is ~$130/person. For more information call (949) 760-0331 or visit LawrysOnline.com/Five-Crowns
Seared ahi in one hand, braised short rib in the other, with a glass of chardonnay bouncing whimsically as it hangs around your neck. You’ve long since lost count of how many of Maggiano’s heavenly chocolate zuccotto cake balls you’ve indulged in. The clinking of glasses has become a natural symphony for the afternoon, a product of groups cheers-ing, vendors leaving patrons with a jubilant impression, or just those wine glass necklaces clanking against some fine Orange County jewelry. The clinking is briefly overshadowed by the commanding voice of Richard Blais as he creates an explosion of boiling water and liquid nitrogen, sparking a roar of applause. It’s an iconic moment at the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival, where food fans are living their best life.
After building up quite a reputation in its first five years, the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival continues to step up its game, providing a premiere experience for food fans, wine aficionados and starstruck audiences of celebrity chef cooking demonstrations. Three days of grand tastings and private events allowed guests to explore some of Orange County’s best culinary offerings.
Friday’s ‘Fire It Up’ kicked off the festival by setting a very high bar, whereby chefs showcased their grilling talents amidst an intimate shoreside setting. Taking place at the Balboa Bay Resort with some booths literally on the sand, this gourmet barbecue saw lavish displays of lamb, sausage, seafood and more ribs than you could imagine. Top Chef Celebrities Brooke Williamson and Casey Thompson’s gigantic shrimp and Chilean seabass were tastes for the memory books, as was Knife’s pork ribs, jalapeno cornbread and bacon jam. Patrons enjoyed Tackle Box’s Korean BBQ short ribs and Ms. Chi Café’s rack of lamb as well, alongside a myriad of wines and cocktails with live music performing in the foreground of a sunset ocean view in Southern California.
A seamless transition led to the first of the weekend’s two grand tastings, held at the Newport Beach Civic Center. Stretching across three massive tents, Saturday’s festivities boasted dozens of restaurants, bakeries, wineries and other drink purveyors. Five Crown’s chicken pies delivered savory, buttery sustenance, while Olea’s duck liver pate boasted the same traits in its own distinct way. Filomena’s Italian Kitchen served up a lovely penne alla vodka with sausage, and The Winery Restaurant’s lamb sandwiches were a smash hit. And then there was Bluegold and LXSO’s curry, which had people coming back for seconds, thirds and fourths.
The cooking stage was its own highlight, emceed by Orange County Local and veteran chef Jaime Gwen, whose energy and culinary knowledge pushed each demonstration to new heights. Brooke Williamson and fellow Top Chef Star Shirley Chung put on a wildly entertaining cooking demo that brought new life to vegan desserts, while Kelsey Barnard Clark led the audience in an alluring yet approachable way to cook up fried chicken and biscuits with Alabama style. The day belonged to Antonia Lofaso, however, who wowed the audience with simple and beautiful cooking techniques and a heck of a stage presence.
Sunday saw much of the same magic, with many new restaurants showcasing their own culinary novelties. Sprinkles cupcakes made its debut at Newport Food and Wine, doling out literally thousands of cupcakes to anyone with a sweet tooth. Crack Shack also came out for its first year, strategically steering away from its famous fried chicken (it’s nearly impossible to make fried chicken for the masses at a food festival) and instead showcasing some excellent grilled chicken ‘California Reubens.’
And with Crack Shack came Richard Blais, a long-time partner with the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival. As predicted, the vocal culinary gastronomist completely stole the show. Some spectacular cooking certainly took place, but it may have taken a back seat to the hilarious jokes and banter commanded by Blais’ larger-than-life personality. He finished things off by bringing back the homemade flamethrower, sealing a show perfected for entertainment.
Additional events took participants across the region, from a golf tournament and brunch at Pelican Hill to a cooking demo and wine tasting with Nobu Matsuhisa himself at Nobu Newport Beach. For more information, visit NewportWineAndFood.com.
There’s something truly special about biting into a succulent lobster dumpling and sipping champagne while your toes wiggle in the warm sand. Looking out into the water, glimmering with a flawless summer sun, it’s about as perfect of a Southern California moment as you can get. And it’s moments like these that the Pacific Wine and Food Classic is all about.
This annual event brought myriads of restaurants, wineries, breweries and libation purveyors right up to the water’s edge in Newport Beach, with booths literally on the sand and the shore just a few steps away in the backdrop. Eateries from across Orange Country stretched just about as far as the eye could see, interspersed with local wineries, regionally acclaimed breweries and the crowd favorite ‘bubble bar,’ which showcased a variety of champagnes.
As far as food goes, chefs made sure to step up their game to match the festival’s dream-like environment. Taps Fish House and Brewery served up those incredible lobster dumplings, each sitting in a sip of lobster bisque. Ten Asian Bistro doled out Japanese dumplings with fresh ahi tuna, as well as colorful black rice rolls. Piccolino Ristorante’s lobster and crab cannelloni stole patrons’ hearts, as did the oh-so-rich gnocchi from Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse.
The District at Tustin Legacy hosted ‘The District Lounge,’ which featured several of the venue’s dining destinations. Prego served a Mediterranean ceviche as well as conchiglie with vodka sauce. The Yellow Chili, dedicated to modern Indian cuisine, served up a tasty murgh angaar begdi, or clay oven chicken. Bar Louie was also there with their nachos in house-made cheese sauce.
Nirvana Grill got creative with creamy chicken empanadas served alongside a dessert of goat cheese maple ice cream. The Country Club Helmsman’s braised bacon corn fritters were up there as well, along with Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen’s roasted carrot puree garnished with pistachios and honey. Then there was The Waterfront Resort’s ahi cigars, coated in ‘onion ash’ to be a spectacular alternative to the real thing.
Drinks were of course in complete abundance. Maker’s Mark alone hosted several stations, each of which featured a different application of their namesake whiskey, from cocktails to ice cream. Stella Artois was there with its classic pilsner, as well as an infused popsicle for the summer heat.
Wineries present included John Anthony, King Estate, Starmont, Mercer Family Vineyard and Chateau St. Michelle among others. Champagnes at the bubble bar included Martini & Rossi, Gloria Ferrar, Wilson Creek and G.H. Mumm among others. Breweries included Unibroue, Lindemans and Towne Park among others.
The festival’s ambiance was topped off with a silent DJ, as well as all beach games and of course some incredible people watching. For more information, visit PacificWineAndFood.com.
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.