Tucked away alongside the picturesque views of Pacific Coast Highway lies a tried-and-true gem: Five Crowns. Since 1965, this British inspired restaurant has remained a staple in Corona Del Mar, enchanting guests with culinary classics, impeccable customer service and an exclusive wine program. After last years recent renovation, Chef Steve Kling, current Executive Chef Anthony Endy, and their culinary team have modernized the menu while paying homage to the beloved classics. The avant-garde late spring/early summer menu features a creative array of small plates, rustic main dishes and desserts. Resident Cheesemonger Tracy Nelson has curated an impressive lineup of artisanal cheeses originating from nearby Northern California to transatlantic Europe.

The Experience

“My parents love that place.”

“I got engaged there.”

We entered through the Side Door (Five Crowns’ gastropub concept – but also literally a side door), and found ourselves instantly transported to a Tolkien-esque British pub that’s reminiscent of the Green Dragon Inn. Without hesitation we were greeted and guided to the rear grotto. Unlike previous tastings at Five Crowns, which were seated, coursed affairs, the ambience was much more casual – a wine bar, a cheese table, and waiters milling about, dispensing bites of the latest culinary creations.

The staff passing bites from the menu also didn’t miss a beat in providing recommendations on wine and cocktails to pair with our dishes. Their skill set was evident, as every recommendation hit the mark. From cocktails and risotto, through cheese and charcuterie, to desserts and night-caps, the service leaves nothing to be desired.

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The Food

Artisan Cheese Spread

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Selected Cheeses and Charcuterie included: Abbaye De Belloc, Minuet, Big Rock Bleu Cheese, Prosciutto and Molisana
Being in the industry I can fawn over a well curated cheese board – and I can say without hesitation that Five Crowns/Side Door serves some of the most beautiful cheese boards in OC. As my eyes wandered over the gorgeous cheese spread resident, which Cheesemonger’s Tracy curated, I spotted one of my favorites: Abbaye de Belloc.

Abbaye de Belloc is known as ‘Abbaye Notre-Dame de Belloc’ since it was produced by the Benedictine monks at the ‘Abbaye de Notre Dame de Belloc’ in France. Abbaye’s lingering nuttiness and sweet notes of caramelized sugar
envelop your palate and please your inner curd nerd.

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Burrata & Grilled Baby Leeks

The subtle earthy characteristics of this exquisitely prepared appetizer pair beautifully with the crisp refreshing nature of the recommended cocktail pairing, “Spiritual Gangster”. Perfectly toasted crusty bread, topped with a creamy unctuous little cloud of burrata – that’s what I call ‘utterly delicious’. Grilled baby leeks provide and earthy contrast to the creamy burrata. Whether you’re having seasonal cocktails at the garden bar of the Five Crowns, or sitting in the dining room, this little burrata toast is a perfect snack to enjoy as an appetizer – with a cocktail, of course.

Paired with: Spiritual Gangster

Organic Gin, Amaro Lemon Lime, Chamomile, Honey, Mint & Cucumber

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Head Mixologist Randy Thais crafted a lively cocktail that captures the essence of Five Crowns’s onsite garden, both seasonally and creatively. Gin pleases with assertive floral and clean notes while aromatic herbaceous notes of chamomile linger on the nose. Acidity from the lime and residual sweetness from honey dominate the glass, providing a balance to the gin’s drier notes.

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Grilled Octopus, Fava, Scallion and Lemon Vinaigrette

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Fresh. Light. Oceanic. If you close your eyes and take a bite of this light charred octopus you can just about picture yourself sitting on the coast of Baja California with a beer in hand (or a cocktail – I’m an equal opportunity enjoyer of beverages). The hints of lemon dressing are delicate enough to preserve the smooth flavor of the fava bean puree while the octopus provides a pelagic overtone. The fluffy verdant fava bean mash lends a bright touch to the palate.

Norwegian Halibut, White Asparagus, English Peas, Cauliflower Puree & Caper Brown Butter

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This is “that dish”. The one that, when the server brings it out, grabs the attention of the eater who is sneakily reaching for their phone (better keep that Instagram shortcut handy). The one that makes the person at the next table lean in and ask “Excuse me, what is that?” Part of the intrigue is the simplicity: English Peas. Buttery Halibut. Cauliflower. White Asparagus.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you though: Grilled to a perfect medium, this buttery Halibut is full of sweet (oceanic) meaty flavor that does justice to this succulent fish. Soft cauliflower puree provide a sense of lightness, while the caper brown butter balances out the succulence of the fish. White asparagus provide a textural contrast, if you manage to pry yourself away from the star of the plate.

Morel Mushroom & Artichoke Risotto

Cooked perfectly al dente as one would expect, this rich risotto is married with artichokes to make for a distinctive earthy taste. A perfect little bite that satisfies the palate – not too heavy, but deep enough to leave you wanting just one more bite (I may have flagged a waitress down for thirds on this one).

Dessert

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta & Berries

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Soft. Sweet. Lucious. This dessert features everything I love about sweets. The panna cotta is a melt-in-your-mouth soft, without being heavy – it almost floats above the plate, a cloud like texture, and leaves subtle hints of berry sweetness on the palate. Strawberries balance their delicate, tart sweetness against the soft-spoken, delicate, unctuous flavors of the panna cotta. The combination means you’re palate doesn’t get washed out – quite the opposite, I found spoonful after spoonful to be equally delightful!

Along with a new menu Five Crowns/Side Door welcomes a new Executive Chef Anthony Endy. Chef Endy comes to Five Crowns and SideDoor from Paul Martin’s American Grill, where he served as Chef Partner and most recently as Director of Culinary Operations since 2012. Prior to joining Paul Martin’s, Endy was Sous Chef for the acclaimed chef Julie Robles, and spent most of his early career at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café in Santa Barbara as both Executive Chef and General Manager.

Monthly Curated Cheese Takeovers at SideDoor

WHAT: SideDoor is known for its award-winning cheese and charcuterie offerings, and is pleased to dedicate one evening a month to boutique creameries and specialty cheeses. Monthly SideDoor will embrace a full “cheese takeover” showcasing a select portfolio of artisanal cheeses and Wednesday, June 21 welcomes Cypress Grove Creamery

SideDoor’s own certified expert and cheesemonger, Tracy Nelsen, will be on hand at each takeover to educate diners on the various cheeses presented and recommend the perfect pairings. The featured cheeses will also find their way into select SideDoor menu items for that evening only. A different creamery will be featured monthly culminating with a complete cheese takeover celebration in August.

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SCHEDULE

Wednesday, June 21
Cypress Grove Creamery (Humboldt County, CA)

Wednesday, July 19
Willamette Valley Cheese Co. (Salem, Oregon)

Wednesday, August 16
The ultimate cheese takeover showcasing the four creameries of the series including By George (April), Cowgirl (May), Cypress Grove (June), and Willamette Valley Cheese Co. (July). The evening will offer cheese, charcuterie, passed appetizers and beverage pairings.

TIME:
Wednesday Takeovers – 4:30pm until we run out of cheese
August 16 – TBD

WHERE:
SideDoor, 3801 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625

PRICE:
Wednesday Takeovers – 5 piece cheese board $28
August 16 – $125 per person

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