Oh my gosh. I think I still might be full from my Chef’s Supper experience at the Five Crowns in Corona Del Mar with The Trend Tribe. And it was weeks ago. It was my first experience with a chef’s dinner and I think that everyone should be required to do it at least once in their lifetime. A chef’s dinner is where you allow the chef and restaurant to prepare dinner for you. Any way they want and with whatever ingredients they want. It is truly their way of showcasing their talents and skill much like a gallery show would be for an artist. They use super fresh ingredients and shape the menu as the meal goes along. It is a multi-course extravaganza paired with complementary beverages for you to share with 8-10 of your closest friends. It was cool. And I can’t wait to go again.
But first a quick note about my photos. Yeah. I’m not a photographer. While I can put out a nice little staged shot or even grab some cute images of my children, I can’t take photos indoors to save my life. So I left the big camera at home and decided to really experience the meal and capture it with my iPhone. I didn’t want to use any images provided by a way better photographer that was on site but rather share with you exactly what I was doing. Bear with them, I’m super excited to share this with you!
I know what some of you may be thinking. The Five Crowns is not cool. But you, my friend, are totally wrong. While the decor has been largely left the same as the previous incarnation, just about everything else has been changed. I am in love with the dog painting in the waiting room. When you first walk in, it might not give you an immediate feeling of cool. But on the way out, you get it. And I’ll tell you why.
It is all about the food. Gone are the days when you have to worry about what you are wearing. The staff at Five Crowns just wants you to come down and have a great meal. Wearing jeans? Who cares. The question is, what are you going to eat? Our chef’s dinner was a 7-ish course meal. I’m not really sure how to figure out the course thing. Do you count a palate cleanser? Whatevs. We started with an amuse-soup(!) of Manilla Clam Chowder served with Parmesan Gougeres. How gorgeous is that presentation? And it tasted even better than it looked.
The next course had many components but started off with this amazing presentation of the Smoked Bone Marrow. Each plate was set down in front of us with a server ready to remove the glass jar. The bone marrow sat on a bed of smoked wood chips that smelled absolutely amazing. It was a feast for all the senses. That may sound a bit corny but it really was. It was exciting and beautiful and fun way to eat.
I am not a big fan of bone marrow but I think when you are in situations like this you owe it to yourself and the chef to try everything. They realize that it is really hard to let go of the normal way of dining. But remember the chef is not interested in serving you stuff that tastes gross. He is interested, however, in using the freshest ingredients in a unique way and sometimes that means introducing you to something you might not otherwise would have ordered. Take the oysters for instance. I have refused to try them up until now. But that night, I decided to give it a shot. And I’m SO glad I did. They were nothing like I thought it would be. It wasn’t fishy tasting and the fresh ingredients it was prepared with kept it from being too squishy. So guess what, I eat oysters now. I realize I am not going to love every one of them as much as I like the Five Crowns preparation, but at least I will not be so afraid of them. Another really fun part of this course was the Pimm’s Cup we were served. I had never had one before but had always wanted to try one. Their version has a little fresh strawberry in it and it was delicious!!! It was after my first sip that I wished I had a car service taking me home. I would have swam in that drink if they had let me.
The serving pieces they used for everything were very cool. That helped keep the experience fresh as you never knew what to expect. It was at about this point that I also figured out that Sarah had WAY better lighting in front of her so I started taking pictures of her food instead. For this course we had a piece of Pacific Skate (a type of fish, duh) and a squash blossom stuffed with crab and other yummy goodness. The wine for this course was my favorite and I actually looked it up when I got home because I want more of it in my mouth. It is a Sauvignon Blanc, which is my absolute favorite, but this one wasn’t as fruity as the ones I mostly drink. It was perfect (Jacques Rouze, Quincy 2011, France). This is another reason the chef’s dinner is a great experience. You are getting to experience things you haven’t tried before and might even find a new favorite like me. Each person involved in preparation of the chef’s dinner is doing what they love and what they do best and we benefit from that.
This is Chef Greg Harrison. He’s super cool. He’s got a beanie and a t-shirt on and he’s doing his thing. You could tell that he was excited to share his passion for cooking with us and I loved that he would come out and talk about each course with us. The only thing that would have been cooler is if he actually got to sit down with us to share the meal. He was that personable and could easily have been part of my group of friends. Well, until you look at his career history and then you realize he’s kind of a big deal.
Next up was Jidori Chicken Liver Mousse served with Brioche, Andante Goat Cheese and an apple butter. Mmmmmmmmm. Sometimes you read the ingredients together on a menu and think, how the heck is all that going to go together. But then you taste it and you see angels.
And then! two very large wooden boards were brought out and placed on the table. Had there been any men at the table they probably would have high-fived each other. Being ladies, we kept in control and nodded with delighted approval…and then pulled out cameras out and took pictures from every single angle. Five Crowns was known as a meat and potato kind of place. But this course was done in such a new way that it clearly shows their shift from just good food to artistic and inventive in their approach. The Tomahawk steak was AMAZING! I don’t generally eat meat this rare but it was delicious (just don’t tell my extended family or they will think it is ok to serve me mooing beef from now on). The steak was served with roasted Shitake mushrooms, salt crusted potatoes, braised garlic kale, an onion foam (which I can pretty much still taste if I think about it hard enough – gah, so good) and scallion ash. Let’s talk for a minute about the salty potatoes. Chef Harrison said they were prepared by being boiled in salty water until the water evaporates and the potatoes are left with a salty coating. I kind of want to give this a try. They were delicious and potentially something home cooks can do. If I try it, I’ll share my findings. This was served with a yummy Cabernet which the red loving ladies at the table were cooing over (Savestrin Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008, Napa Valley).
And this happened throughout. Jim Colombo, the General Manager filmed bits and pieces of our experience. With an insane culinary history himself, he was integral in reinventing Five Crowns from it’s stuffy past. When have you seen a GM in a casual button up during a busy Friday night dinner service? I loved the relaxed feel of the staff (servers are still very put together but do not wear the themed outfits of yore) it really adds to the atmosphere. They want to you to sit back with your friends and have a great time. Even the music is cool. We heard a little Mumford and some first wave favorites. Although it was a little too low for my taste, I totally respect that they are trying to provide an overall dining experience that is awesome all the way around. So many places around the country do this, but it seems like Orange County is severely behind the times in this.
My favorite course was the Beet Braised Pork Ribs. The depth of flavor (and I can talk about that because I’ve logged a ton of hours watching the Food Network) was amazing. Like, freaking amazing. It was served with Ricotta Cavatelli, mixed baby carrots and Vadouvan Meringue Popcorn. What is THAT? Chef explained to us that Vadouvan is sort of like a curry (which probably doesn’t even do it justice). The meringue was subtle and sweet but the crunch was perfect with the ribs. I want to say that I barely ate any because I’m a lady and only nibble food but I can’t. I ate this plate clean. And it was the 6th course. Whatevs. It was phenomenal. And it was paired with Beachwood Brewing’s Thrillseeker IPA which is brewed locally. The smell of the beer was fresh with a hint of orange and sooooooo good.
We wrapped up with green apple sorbet paired with champagne and then creme brulee, both vanilla and chocolate. Whammo. That’s how you do a meal.
When the meal was done we got a little more time with the staff to chat about the chef’s dinner and why the restaurant decided to change-up their style. There are good people running this restaurant. And that is something I want to support. You might not have the budget (about $120 per person including tip for 8 people minimum, 10 people maximum) to set up the chef’s supper, but you MUST go check out the regular restaurant menu. You will not be disappointed. This restaurant could have been painted dark green and had ducks all over it. It still would have been cool. When you can feel the passion of the entire staff in your dining experience, that is cool. And when the food tastes amazing. That’s even better.
And have you heard about The Side Door? Part of the original restaurant was turned in to The Side Door which is first come, first served and Gastropub style. I ate there with friends a few months ago and it, too, was awesome! They have the most amazing open charcuterie station and super tasty brussels sprouts. I’m addicted to brussels sprouts. I hope you will check out these restaurants and let me know what you think! At least once I week I try to figure out reasons to gather my friend’s for the chef’s supper. I’m thinking our 10 year anniversary is reason enough. But that isn’t until August. You will find me back at Five Crowns, eating off their regular menu well before then. And I hope to see you there.
3801 E. Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Disclosure: On occasion, I receive products, compensation and/or services gratis or at discounted rates. This practice does not influence the my point of view or the outcome of the review. All descriptions are factual and accurately reflect my experience. The opinions are my own.