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Comments & Curiosities: Five Crowns is back, as good as ever

May 14, 2011|By Peter Buffa

Are you British? I'm not. Were you born in 1936? I wasn't.

But I know someone that can answer "yes" on both those counts. Well, something actually, not someone — Five Crowns in Corona del Mar.

The venerable landmark checked itself into rehab about a month ago after it started to look like a certain columnist I know. It was a little, um, worn, had to double pump to get up, and a few parts were falling off here and there. Nothing major, just a few.

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But that's over now. Five Crowns is back, fluffed, folded and fresh as a daisy. Thursday is the grand reopening and you will be totally impressed. Promise.

How do I know that? Because at a preview dinner this week at the new and improved Five Crowns, the place looked great and tasted even better. Not to worry, it is still the Five Crowns you know and love and all your faves are waiting for you — the Lawry's signature prime rib, the Yorkshire pudding, the rib eye, the creamed spinach and the creamed corn and the profoundly decadent desserts, all of it low fat and high fiber. Sort of.

But the new Five Crowns Executive Chef, Ryan O'Melveny Wilson, has pushed the menu's refresh button and created a gaggle of fresh, innovative newcomers beside the veteran players. As far as looks go, it is still a classically authentic English country inn, only one that looks like it's been run through the Magical Go-Back machine and come out shiny and classy and wow.

The other thing I really like about Five Crowns is that it is a family affair, top to bottom, stem to stern. Both of those.

At the preview dinner, we had the pleasure of sitting with Richard N. Frank, the chairman of Lawry's Restaurants, and his wife, Mary Alice, who tipped me off to some fascinating Five Crowns trivia, which we will get to in a bit.

Their son, Richard R. Frank, the current Lawry's CEO and chairman, gave everyone a warm welcome and introduced the woman who oversaw the new Five Crowns' makeover. She was Susie Frank, who is Lawry's design director, and by the way, Richard's sis.

Oh, and the Five Crowns Executive Chef, the talented Mr. Wilson? Richard and Mary Alice Frank's grandson. See? A family affair.

It was 1950 when Richard Frank signed on at Lawry's, which was founded by his father, Lawrence Frank, and his uncle, Walter Van de Kamp, in 1922, which was even earlier than 1950.

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