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Starfish in Laguna

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It's not a large restaurant, and it has a nightclub feel to it. And it gets loud. But you get used to it, and the food was better than expected. The menu selection is like a greatest hits from many different Asian restaurants.

Banh mi sliders come three to a plate on soft brioche buns. Of course my favorite part is the pickled daikon and carrot which were proportioned well.

Not as successful were the Galbi tacos. They were fine, but Kogi does a better job with more flavorful meat. These just didn't ring my bell.

Fried calamari was crisp and light. And the two sauces, tarragon and red horseradish were quite tasty.

Cucumber salad gave the meal some freshness and it was dressed in a sesame dressing as a member of our party was allergic to the crab dressing in normally comes with. The chef was very accommodating of the allergy. Every dish was scrubbed of any shellfish ingredient so the person could enjoy everything we ordered.

Beef satay was moist and had a nice char to it. And it was quite tender as they use filet mignon. The sauce was also fine, but nothing really jumped out at me about this dish.

Chicken spring rolls were filled solidly which gave them a certain dryness and heaviness. The dipping sauce made it better, but there wasn't enough flavor in the rolls themselves.

Lettuce wraps with chicken were also fine if you're in the mood for this; but after the first time I had this dish many years ago I've never understood the attraction. It's messy, and unless the filling is unusually tasty, it strikes me as a waste of effort. This version was similar to the version at PF Chang, except this version doesn't use as much soy sauce. So it tastes a little lighter, which I appreciated.

Pad Thai was the favorite of one of the diners and it thankfully wasn't sweet. It could have been improved by providing a small cup of pickled jalepeno peppers like they do in Thai restaurants, and I would have preferred more peanuts. But this was a good version and we might order it again.

My favorite dish of the meal was the mahi mahi "hot fish". It had large chunks of tender mahi mahi, bok choy, show peas and carrots with a spicy sauce. The sauce on this dish, and for that matter the sauce on all the dishes really make the dishes interesting.

The Starfish Cooler was refreshing with an orange/mint flavor. It was perfect to cut some of the flavors of the food.

The mango sorbet was a flop. It was very heavy and after all the flavors beforehand, this just didn't have the legs to stand up on its own. Next time we'll try a different dessert.

All in all, we were pleasantly surprised by the food. The flavors were interesting and the presentations were creative and appetizing. Service was also attentive and friendly. This is a perfect place for the times when you don't know what everyone likes. There is a wide selection of food and preparations so everyone can find something they'll like.

Starfish
30832 South PCH (across PCH from the Montage)
In the Albertson's center
Laguna Beach

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