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GOURMET:Crab Cove: Where crab is truly king

THE GALLIVANTING

August 30, 2007|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz

EDITOR’S NOTE: From time to time, the Gossiping Gourmets will be reviewing restaurants outside Laguna Beach in bordering areas close enough for residents to travel to easily. These columns will be called “The Gallivanting Gourmet.”

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Less than a mile from the Laguna border is Monarch Bay Plaza, home of the Crab Cove Restaurant. This attractive Euro-Asian bistro has made the most of its strip mall location. The outdoor patio is masked from the parking lot by three contemporary water walls. The sound of running water creates a tranquil ambience.

Indoors, “a river runs through it.” The water theme is cleverly repeated in a glass covered faux stream running down the middle of the restaurant, complete with koi swimming beneath and banked by a floor of trompe l’oeil river rocks. The wall at the far end of the high ceilinged room makes a dramatic statement.

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Small niches cover the entire wall, each containing a candle. The fluttering light from these electric tapers creates a mesmerizing effect. In front of them is a tall statue of the Buddha who stands serene, watching over the diners. The large mirrors, blond wood and a skylight complete this truly inviting space.

A new chef, Frank Marquez, formerly of Morton’s Steak House, has recently come on board and the Cove has changed its concept from an Asian bistro to a seafood and steakhouse. The chef has kept many of the old favorites and added a number of new entrées, including four steaks and “surf and turf” combinations.

True to its name, the restaurant features several crab selections in every menu category. For appetizers, there are crab cakes, soft shell crabs, snow crab claws and crispy rice paper rolls with crab. The soup is fresh corn and crab.

Entrées include a whole roasted crab, garlic noodles topped with crab, as well as steamed king crab legs. Even the sides include crab-mashed potatoes. Only the dessert menu lacks a crab crème brulée.

As we sipped our wine and tried to decide between crab, crab or crab, we munched on the complimentary shrimp chips, as good as any we’ve tasted: freshly fried and crunchy. Surprise, we chose crab! First, we had the crispy rice paper roll, filled with a pleasant combination of crab, shrimp, chicken, sweet peppers and shiitake mushrooms accompanied by a thin Vietnamese dipping sauce.

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