Starfish Asian Cuisine

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Restaurateur Nancy Wilhelm did all of us a favor when she launched Starfish Asian Cuisine in the Albertson’s shopping center in South Laguna.

While we love our quieter lifestyle down here (a whopping 3 miles from Laguna’s Main Beach center), we haven’t had any real place to hang out (bar-wise) other than Coyote Grill or Rumari’s closer into town. We locals needed a neighborhood eatery and friendly bar that eased somewhere between sit-down dining and obnoxious bar scene.

True to Nancy’s classic restaurateur style, Starfish has always served great food from Day One. And, I’ve raved about the bartenders in previous posts – these people remember your name just like the ol’ Cheers TV show. While I might shy away from “bellying up to the bar” elsewhere for a quick dinner on my own, I have no compunction about heading into Starfish on any given night. (Heck, Lead Bartender Neil even gave me his Winter Sangria punch recipe for my annual holiday party this year. These people are good people.)

But, in November when Nancy returned to full-time management of Tabu Grill, promoted Gretchen Andrews from Tabu to Starfish, who then recruited the top management from P.F. Chang’s, we admittedly stepped back a bit to see what was going to happen next.

Thankfully, Starfish has only gotten better.

For starters, the new front-of-house and kitchen management joining Gretchen – Archie McConnell and Marco Romero – was not interested in creating a P.F. Chang’s clone. While a few menu items changed, the majority of this creative menu remained intact and only has gotten better in taste and delivery time.

Starfish is quickly becoming my Laguna Beach favorite for a quick drop-in when I’m craving the Filet Mignon Satay, the crisp Cambodian Cucumber Salad, or a steamy bowl of Pho soup.

When I’m with friends, we order up larger servings such as their Pan Seared Pork Dumplings, the endless offers of fantastic fish dishes (Mahi Mahi “Hot Fish” seems to be the presiding favorite), or the towering Jenga-like stack of the meatiest, tastiest 5-Spice Baby Back Ribs you’ve ever experienced. (A photo from my iPhone simply cannot do this towering stack of ribs justice.)

While there are plenty of tables (usually filled all evening), my friends and I are accustomed to taking seats at the bar – the bartenders are excellent and timely and the service is very friendly and attentive, even on their busiest nights.

To give you an idea of how Starfish is ranking among Laguna Beach restaurant goers …

My good friend from Denver visits here every 6 weeks or so. His family has had a condo here since his childhood, and he’s always made a beeline for Rumari’s every time he’s in town. I love Rumari’s and its old-style service and classic Italian food (by far the best Italian food in Laguna Beach in my book), but I did introduce my buddy to Starfish as some point along the way.

In December, he and his sister came out for just two nights for their customary Laguna Beach Hospitality Night visit, and they joined me at Starfish after the parade downtown. The next evening, they called to see if I had dinner plans and suggested we return AGAIN to Starfish because they were that crazy about it. Now, every time my buddy flies into town, I know we’ll meet at least one evening at the Starfish bar. This Starfish is a keeper.





Starfish Asian Cuisine Laguna Beach

Starfish’s Location: 30832 S. Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach (across from the Montage in the Albertson’s Shopping center)

Starfish’s Hours: Lunch, M-F 11-4 p.m.; Opium Happy Hour, everyday 3-6 p.m.; Dinner, nightly from 5 p.m.; Industry Night, all evening Monday.

Reservations: (949) 715-9200

Take Out Hotline: (949) 715-8205 (large party takeouts also available)



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