Royalty dining at the Five Crowns

CORONA DEL MAR — The newly remodeled Five Crowns will mark its grand reopening Thursday night with a more "airy" dining space, seasonal menu options and revamped service.

The iconic Orange County restaurant on East Coast Highway in Corona del Mar closed for remodeling from March 21 to April 18. The downstairs area has since been reopened, but on Wednesday workers were still finishing the upstairs renovation work with the installation of ceiling lights in anticipation of the full reopening.

"We want Five Crowns to be more of a restaurant that you think of on a Tuesday night," said Lawry's Restaurants Inc. Executive Chef Ryan O'Melveny Wilson, who took over for longtime chef Dennis Brask in February.

The family-operated restaurant's temporary closure was its first significant one in 45 years. Five Crowns will still maintain the feel and look of an English country inn, be a place of celebration on the holidays and feature prime rib, but just about everything else went through an overhaul.

Immediately upon entering the lobby, customers will notice the new hardwood floors, chandeliers, recessed lighting and a wine display in place of the old rotisserie.

The dining areas also received the benefit of the new lighting system, no longer feeling "dark and dingy," and long-underappreciated artwork was reframed and is showcased by the new ambient lighting, O'Melveny Wilson said.

Additionally, new plateware, linens, upholstery, a more spacious room layout and an upgraded sound system playing mid-century American and Latin jazz complete the physical remodel.

As for the menu, the "classic prime rib is still the focal point and hallmark of the Lawry's brand," O'Melveny Wilson said. "That preparation and plate portion has not changed."

However, now customers will select their sides, making the overall dish more affordable, he said.

The rest of the menu will focus on variety with seasonal and locally grown or ranched items.

"All my passion, my inspiration, comes from walking famers markets," O'Melveny Wilson said, adding that there will be new seasonal dishes every four to six weeks, a contrast to past menu changes, which occurred every four to six months.

While the restaurant will now offer more chicken and fish options, more than half of the sales at Five Crowns are prime rib, said General Manager Steve Kim.

"We still want people to enjoy the same prime rib here, but we want people to understand that we also have other offerings," Kim said. "We want to allow the diner to be excited for the opportunity to try something new."

The changes come not long after the restaurant opened its gastropub, SideDoor, in 2010.

The new demographic it attracted to the restaurant and overall success of that venture partially spurred the idea to give Five Crowns a makeover, O'Melveny Wilson said.

"We gained a lot of creative confidence in opening SideDoor," he said.

To ensure that the transition remained smooth, staff went through an extensive training period in food and beverage menu changes during the restaurant's closure.

"We want people to be very much aware that the traditions, warmth, community and hospitality of Five Crowns is still here," Kim said. "These changes are part of what will allow us to continue for another generation."

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