Starfish shines for Wilhelm

Nancy Wilhelm has a second child, so to speak.

The Tabu Grill owner opened Starfish, her second restaurant in Laguna Beach, on June 8.

Almost twice the size of Tabu Grill with a much more laidback atmosphere, Starfish boasts Asian coastal cuisine, taking culinary cues from China, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, to name a few.

It will be a much different venture than the Zagat-rated Tabu Grill, whose entrees run from $36 to $55.

"In Laguna we get people coming off the golf course and the beach," she said. "People can come in however they want to."

Starfish will offer a more casual dining experience, with a price point of $30 and under.

She started the project about two years ago and has had the name, Starfish, cooking in her head for a while.

"I just like it," she said.

A stone's throw from Tabu Grill, Wilhelm likes the fact that she can attend to both her children, she said with a laugh.

"It is close to Tabu so I can be hands-on in both places," she said.

She put the menu together with the help of Executive Chef Jarvis Yuan. Some of Wilhelm's favorites are the Ginger Scallion Shaking Beef, the Five Spice Baby Back Ribs and their satay menu.

On June 11, Starfish held an opening party, with proceeds benefitting the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. They raised almost $9,000 for the marine animal rescue center, she said.

No stranger to Laguna Beach, Wilhelm has been involved in the culinary culture of the city since the 1970s. She was the former co-owner of Kachina, which is no longer open. She started the restaurant, which offered southwestern fare, with then-husband David Wilhelm.

Based on her adoration for the city and its dining, she said it wasn't a hard to pick the location.

"Laguna Beach is probably one of the most beautiful places in the country. We still have that friendly small-town atmosphere," she said. "I have employees that have opened restaurants here in town. I still see them — a mini family everywhere I look."

Wilhelm said she got a special surprise when former Kachina employees came together for the Starfish opening.


Where: 30832 Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach

Fare: Asian fusion

Prices: $30 and under

Contact: (949) 715-9200 or

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