[singlepic id=409 w=320 h=240 mode=watermark float=right]The other night, after running a few errands, I decided to pop into Starfish Asian Cuisine for a quick bite. As I’ve written previously, Starfish opened in South Laguna Beach’s Albertson’s shopping center across from the Montage Laguna Beach a couple months ago.

It’s the brainchild of Tabu Grill restaurateur Nancy Wilhelm, and it is rocking.

In my first review, I’d noted that Starfish is likely to become the first classy, comfortable bar for South Laguna residents, and my visit the other night was just as predicted. I haven’t been to the restaurant in over three weeks, but Jen, the bartender, remembered the Chardonnay I’d ordered on my previous visit and kibbitzed with me about her favorite menu items.

I finally settled on the Lemongrass Filet Satay and the Cambodian Cucumber Salad; the choice was easily the best I’ve yet had at Starfish. The filet mignon, served up on 4 thin bamboo sticks, was perfectly done in a chili and lemongrass mint sauce. The cucumber salad was a hearty pile of thinly sliced, crisp cucumber mixed with mint, Thai basil and cherry tomatoes in a chili lime vinaigrette. It was perfect.

As I chatted with neighborly neighbors, Nancy, the owner, pulled up a chair. Business has been bustling, she says, and she feels so lucky that everything came together so beautifully in this restaurant. I look at Nancy, a Grande Dame of Laguna Beach restaurants since opening Cucina in 1989 and I think, “Lucky? Maybe, my dear, but you’re also one hell of a smart entrepreneur.”

She says when she first landed on the idea to produce Asian cuisine, she knew nothing about it. She explored a number of great restaurants, including Buddakan NYC on New York’s 9th Avenue, Wild Ginger in Seattle and Rock Sugar Pan Asian in Century City. She relied on consultants in the know to track down her master chef, Jarvis Yuan. She studied traffic patterns, diners’ timing, and the ins and outs of “Chinese take out.”

And then she got to work.

Happily, Nancy’s research seems to have paid off. Having settled into a nightly busy dining rhythm, she’s now launching the Starfish Take Out menu and service. Check out their menu at www.StarfishLaguna.com and call their designated Take Out line, 949-715-8205, for quick pick up.

Then, stay tuned for lunch details, as Starfish will begin serving lunch in late September. The asian bistro will also be debuting its patio dining in a matter of weeks which, not surprisingly, doesn’t look a thing like the sparse patio dining you see elsewhere in this little strip.

I have to say it again – Starfish is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.


Get Laguna's Restaurant Updates!