The Star(fish) of South Laguna

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 Coastal Dining Scene

Starfish fuses coastal flavors of Asia into Laguna’s coastal dining scene.- By Jason Sanford / Photos by Jody Tiongco

Nancy Wilhelm, Best known for the highly rated Tabu Grill, has a new restaurant concept in Starfish that takes Asia’s varying cuisine and puts it all on the same plate, so to speak.

“There are similar but different flavor profiles from the Asian coastline, and it’s like walking into another dimension or element,” Nancy explains. “It’s like walking into a place in New York or San Francisco or Hong Kong.”

Upon entering, guests are immersed in the restaurant’s inescapably moody seduction—dark, handsome hues accent the restaurant’s interior, and patrons have cozy booths and high tables to choose from. Starfish is immediately unique in town, as it’s located in a strip mall with ample parking, yet feels like it could just as easily be wedged in between metropolitan skyscrapers and subway stations. Quite naturally romantic, Starfish has a way of scooting a couple’s chairs or butts a little closer together for dinner. The food is presented family style, which also brings those at the table in a little tighter together and adds to the “let’s share the evening” ambiance.

Menu items are varied in their preparation and series of ingredients, which means that each dish flies its own distinct flag, both in origin and in flavor.

The Mauna Kai ahi poke is fresh and flavorful, as it’s served with a couple of taro chips and avocado. Chilean seabass is breaded and brought out on skewers, a new take on a finned favorite—the skewers are crispy and delicious.

The best dish at the place is hard to nail down, as the contenders all have their own flavor profiles and ingredients, though it’s either the sweeter Korean galbi tacos, the incredibly complex flavor of the Five Spice baby back ribs, or the savory Kobe banh mi sliders. Depending on the company and appetite, maybe choosing to order each, instead of choosing between them, is the best course of action.

Or perhaps the best thing to do is to save extra room for the traditional profiteroles, a sweet and just-rich-enough finish to the parade of flavors from across the Asian seaboard.

Nancy, above all else, wants her customers to get lost in their dinner plate when they get to Starfish—mission accomplished.

“We want to provide a genuine experience beyond the turquoise [front] door.” LBM

 

Starfish

30832 S. Coast Hwy.;
949-715-9200;
starfishlaguna.com

Hours: Open daily,
4 p.m. to midnight
price: $4 – $33


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