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A DREAM TURNS: THE FIVE ALLS

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The Five Alls is celebrating 25 years of fine dining in a romantic Old English atmosphere, and that's quite a feat!

Like grabbing a brass ring - literally. There it is, for all to see - riveted onto the hatchlike front door of the restaurant - a polished, circular brass latch that requires a bit of muscle to maneuver.But when the ring is pulled and the wooden entranceway swings open, you enter a cavernous quiet rarely found in the Salt Lake Valley.

You've entered the Five Alls Restaurant - a carousel ride back into jolly old England . . . far from frenetic Foothill Boulevard.

And the ride can toss many a hopeful equestrian. With Utahns' passion for weekend restaurant-hopping, an eating establishment has to remain constantly top-rate to boast 25 successful years in the food business.

So, we gladly grabbed that brass ring and entered the dimly lighted halls of The Five Alls, hoping to discover for ourselves the place's secret of success - and also to find the meaning of the offbeat name.

Ancient tapestries drape stucco walls. Antiques fill curious corners. Ruby velvet cushions on kingly chairs. Crossed swords. A burnished metal fireplace; lilting strains of Vivaldi.

The only heavy metal allowed here is pewter.

Understated Gothic.

We were transfixed. Inside a time warp, ready to feast in a medieval castle.

Guess you could sum it up with one word: atmosphere.

It began in 1969 when Five Alls owner-proprietor Richard Halliday bought and redecorated what was then the Balsam Embers (the rebuilt version of the unfortunately burned-to-the-ground Balsam Restaurant . . . hence, the name.)

The fine dining part is a result of a lifetime of involvement with food.

Learning his way around the kitchen from his mother, Halliday began following his own private yellow brick road.

No bricks for him, however. His precocious path was paved with pate.

Halliday's interest in cooking was further influenced by some culinary studies in Europe.

But his years working with Finn Gurholt at Finn's Restaurant (a Salt Lake classic of fine food with mood) cemented Halliday's determination to open his own upscale restaurant someday. Combining lots of research, experimentation and his growing knowledge of food, he began to formulate his "dream restaurant."

Halliday's attention to detail could be the reason for the restaurant's longevity and success.

Whatever it is, it works.

"We try to bring the best of what we know together with the best and freshest foods we can find in ways that are enjoyable, without being overbearing," says Halliday.

Five Alls has expanded its menu through the years to keep pace with the changing demands and palates of consumers - from fresh fish to cholesterol-free frying.

The core menu, says Halliday, has remained basically unchanged.

"It's not surprising to me that people still order Filet Oscar with bearnaise sauce or halibut topped with crab meat and hollandaise," he says.

Utahns prefer more traditional fare, which fits the picture of the majority of Americans who dine out.

Nationally, there's a slow but steady return to more beef and sauces, studies indicate, even though the low-fat marketing blanket seems to cover the Earth as of late.

Halliday says The Five Alls remains one of Salt Lake City's premier restaurants because "it is an excellent value.

"Everything from the addictive starter course of onion breadsticks, clam dip and spiced meatballs through a long list of diverse entree selections, right down to a scrumptious dessert and almond macaroon is all included in the still-reasonable dinner prices," he notes.

Also included in the price of the meal is a baked potato or wild rice, vegetables, beverage and freshly baked breads.

Head chef and manager Scott Smith has been on staff for years and is considered a key to Five All's success and loyal customers.

Each year, 25 or 30 terribly nervous young men choose the low lights, muted classical music and beautiful view of the sunset at The Five Alls to "pop the question."

And numerous couples celebrate anniversaries and special events in their lives with a Five Alls meal.

First-time prom dates book the restaurant for their special evening out and are pampered by courteous, costumed coeds who subtly ease the pain of young patrons having to decide which fork to use.

The romantic atmosphere is "an owner-inaugurated tradition," says Halliday.

Halliday met his wife Christina at the Five Alls when she worked there as a waitress.

She recalls, "He really won my heart when he surprised me with a dinner he cooked for the two of us at his apartment. I remember escargot - my first - and broiled lobster tail; and I remember thinking, `This guy has got to be the most romantic man I've even known.' "

Today, she and the couple's daughters, Hilary and Anne, all help operate the family business. Christina, who is a licensed clinical social worker, still plays a major role in managing the dining room.

Their 21 years of marriage have brought the family full circle in helping shape Richard's "dream."

We now understood why the Five Alls is still booming after 25 years.

But what about the strange name?

One discovers the meaning after examining five specially crafted stained-glass windows that glow in the darkened interior of the Halliday's "castle."

The tale begins as a menu introduction . . . .

"According to a historical 17th and 18th century British tradition, the signs on many public houses depicted a humorous division of society into various categories. Each was portrayed in a separate visual panel.

"The first panel represented the King: "I rule All;" the second, a Parson: "I pray for All;" the third, a Lawyer: "I plead for All;" the fourth, a soldier: "I fight for All;" and the fifth panel, a Taxpayer: "I pay for All."

Hence "The Five Alls."

*****

Additional Information

FIVE ALLS CLAM DIP

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup minced onion

Juice of 1/2 lemon

6 ounces chopped clams with their juice

Beat cream cheese (clearing sides and bottom of bowl frequently) until smooth; add onion and lemon juice and continue beating 2-3 minutes. Slowly add clam juice while beating until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Add clams last and stir only until evenly mixed. Dip will improve with refrigerated storage in an airtight container; 1 hour minimum, overnight is even better. Fluff up with a vigorous stirring prior to serving. Serve with onion bread sticks. Serves 12.

- Each serving contains 209 calories, 20 g fat, 3 g carb, 356 mg sodium, 72 mg cholesterol.

- From Richard Halliday, "The Five Alls Restaurant."

FIVE ALLS ALMOND MACAROONS

8 ounces pure almond paste ("Chicago" Brand preferred)

8 ounces granulated sugar

1 1/2 ounces (by volume) egg whites

Combine ingredients thoroughly (Do not whip or overmix); transfer mixture to pastry bag fitted with a #9 star tube and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with release-treated paper; top each with a whole, natural almond. Press down slightly. Bake at 375 to 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. (Ridges and edges should brown slightly but should not bake so long as to appear browned or cookielike). Cool before peeling from pan liner. Store in plastic bag or air-tight container. Refrigerate if longer-term storage is required. Makes 24.

- Each cookie contains 96 calories, 6 g fat, 12 g carb, 40 mg sodium, 0 cholesterol.

- From Richard Halliday, "The Five Alls Restaurant."

RICHARD'S FAVORITE CHILI

2 pounds steak, trimmed and chunked

2 garlic buds, mashed and minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon oregano

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

16 ounces tomato sauce

5 15-ounce cans pinto beans

2 10-ounce cans beef bouillon

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt to taste

Small handful chopped parsley

Approximately 1/2 chopped green pepper

Brown first two ingredients in heavy skillet using a small amount of butter and salt and pepper to taste; drain. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serves 8.

- Each serving contains 350 calories, 16 g fat, 22 g carb, 1,080 mg sodium, 75 mg cholesterol.

- From Christina Halliday

STEAMED SALMON DINNER FOR TWO

2 red potatoes (about 1/2 pound), unpeeled, cut lengthwise into 1 1/4 slices

2 salmon steaks (about 6 ounces each), 1 inch thick

4 thin slices lemon

24 snow peas (about 3 ounces)

6 to 8 fresh mushrooms 1/4 cup light sour cream

1 tablespoon reduced-calorie mayonnaise

1 small green onion, finely chopped

2 teaspoons chopped dill or 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Grated peel of 1/2 lemon

For Zesty Dill Sauce:

In a small bowl, combine green onion, chopped dill or dill weed, Dijon mustard and grated lemon peel. Makes 6 tablespoons sauce.

For Salmon:

Spray steamer rack (opened flat) with non-stick vegetable cooking spray. Place rack in large saucepan or dome-lidded, deep electric skillet over 1 to 1 1/4-inches water (water should not touch bottom of rack). Bring to boil. Arrange potato slices over one-third of rack. Cover and steam for 8 minutes. Add salmon steaks and top each with 2 lemon slices; cover and steam for 6 minutes more. Add snow peas and mushrooms; cover and steam for 4 to 5 minutes longer, or until fish flakes easily with a fork and vegetables are tender. Divide onto 2 dinner plates or arrange on large serving platter. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired, and serve with Zesty Dill Sauce for Fish and Vegetables. Serves 2.

- Each serving of salmon contains 402 calories, 12 g fat, 35 g carb, 86 mg sodium, 94 mg cholesterol.

- Each tablespoon of Dill Sauce contains 27 calories, 2 g fat, 1 g carb, 141 mg sodium, 4 mg cholesterol.

- From Sunkist Growers, Inc.

LIGHT CHICKEN CORDON PREMIER

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and forced through a press

1/4 teaspoon EACH dried and finely crushed thyme, sage and marjoram

Grated peel of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 whole boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise 2 paper-thin slices lean, low-salt ham

4 (2 ounces) slices paper thin low-fat Monterey Jack cheese

1/4 cup low-salt chicken broth

2 teaspoons flour

3 teaspoons water

Prepare an herbed oil by combining olive oil, garlic, thyme, sage, and marjoram, lemon peel, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and several grindings of pepper. Set aside while preparing chicken. Cut chicken breasts in half again crosswide. Place between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until very thin. Brush each piece of chicken with some of the oil mixture. Cut ham slices in half. Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on 4 of the chicken pieces, making sure the chicken is exposed around the edges. Place 4 remaining chicken pieces on top and press to seal the edges. Place in baking dish.

Combine remaining tablespoon lemon juice and chicken broth. Pour over chicken; spoon remaining herb oil on top. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes; basting with juices twice during the cooking time. Remove chicken from the dish and keep warm. Strain liquid into a small saucepan. Combine flour and water. Bring liquid to a boil, whisk in flour mixture, reduce heat aheat and simmer 2 minutes. Pour sauce over chicken and serve. Makes 4 servings.

- Each serving contains 185 calories, 10 g fat, 3 g carb, 288 mg sodium, 50 mg cholesterol.

- From "Celebrations: Darigold 75th Anniversary Cookbook," Darigold, Inc.