Magical, mysterious, sexy, chic, special: that’s Starfish, which offers sensational Asian cuisine

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

Sexy, muted, oriental, contemporary, chic, eclectic are all the words I would use to describe Starfish, one of my favorite “date night” locations in Laguna Beach. With its stunning horseshoe shaped marble bar, serving some of the best cocktails in Laguna Beach, its low lighting and funky house music inspired beats, Starfish, for me, is like television Dr Who’s Tardis, whisking you to amazing places. Open the doors to this simple looking building, and a magical world reveals itself. 

Starfish first opened its doors in June 2011 with a vision of creating what other Asian restaurants have not succeeded in creating. And what is that you may ask? Well, Starfish’s concept highlights cuisines across all regions of Asia: Japanese, Vietnamese Thai, Korean, Indian and Chinese. Starfish’s menu encompasses all. 

In addition to its stunning interior, starfish also boasts a small yet chic patio area, consisting of high top tables and a lounge style area with plush furniture and pretty foliage.  

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From edamame on, Starfish dishes are magical to see and to taste

Gretchen Andrews and Archie McConnell are the brains behind this magical environment. Gretchen, a founding partner, has been monumental in the development of Starfish, from the décor to the intricate menu. Gretchen’s skill and vision are firmly engraved in Starfish’s personality.

Archie has a background in the heavy-hitting corporate restaurant industry and a charm and charisma that could make the toughest of customers break a smile.  Together they are a force to be reckoned with, a powerful dynamic team with a vision and drive that is hard to equal.

I arrive at Starfish on a Monday, naively thinking that maybe this would be a quiet evening to do a report. How wrong I was. Monday is “industry night,’ a fabulous concept, where people who work in the restaurant industry can get 50 percent off their check upon proof of employment. 

At 7 p.m. this place was packed.

Our wonderful server this evening was a gentleman called Jeff, who has been with Starfish for just seven months, although his knowledge and comfort with his job would suggest he had been there for longer.  

However his working friendship with Archie goes way back, having worked with Archie previously at PF Chang’s.

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This lobster roll lineup was really luscious

My guest this evening was my good friend Sheri, owner of a Pilates studio in town. She is both gluten and dairy free. There is a certain reluctance to take someone so healthy on a tasting, but I was confident that Starfish could more than accommodate our needs.

As I do with many tastings, I put the decision making in our server’s hands. He suggested we start the evening “tapas” style and he promised he would make sure everything he brought out would be in keeping with my guest’s food allergies. 

Wok fired edamame was the first dish to come out of the kitchen that evening and it did not disappoint: seasoned with togarashi, garlic and salt and pepper, these were delicious in every way. We were served a huge portion between us, enough to take some home for my son, “the bottomless pit.” 

We were then presented with the lobster macadamia roll: lobster tail, avocado, mango, cucumber, and cilantro with roasted macadamia nuts to give this a crunchy gluten free topping. This was served with a sriracha aioli and was absolutely delicious. 

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Sea bass, steamed in a banana leaf: out of this world!

The biggest treat of the evening for me was to see Sheri’s face light up when she was presented with gluten free calamari. It’s so hard to find fried calamari that doesn’t contain gluten but Starfish has this nailed down. The calamari is tossed with dried basil and lime leaf and literally lightly submerged in aioli for a couple of seconds.  

These are then served with a Kaffir lime aioli and a blue ginger cocktail sauce. They were yummy and plentiful; again I took the remainder home. 

Next course was a dish from the sea section of the menu, a beautiful sea bass steamed in a banana leaf served with Thai green curry, garlic, green beans and lemon grass rice. This fish was out of this world good: the flavors complemented each other so well and yet again there were leftovers for me to take home.

Just when we thought we couldn’t face any more food, Jeff presented us with a gluten free chocolate cake that was unbelievably good, served with vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries. 

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Gluten free chocolate cake tasted as good as it looks

Starfish, as I expected, pulled out all the stops to look after us this evening. I love the food here and have been a fan since I moved to America back in 2014. But I’m a creature of habit and always order the same thing.  

Thanks to Jeff, I tried dishes on this menu that I know I will try again and again. 

Starfish is located at 30832 S Coast Hwy across from the Montage. For more information, visit

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Maggi Henrikson is our Contributing Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster.

Katie Ford is our Ad Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are the staff photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Account & Instagram Manager.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

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