Welcome to our first restaurant review for the newsletter (or for any public forum)! Your correspondents are young foodies, but pretty much will eat anything and find as much joy in taco trucks as we do in upscale sushi restaurants. Recently we paid our first visit to Starfish, the creation of Diego Fernandez, and one of the newest places in the hood.

Starfish welcomes patrons with an inviting vibe and decor. Impressive jellyfish chandeliers cast a warm light, and the space hits all the right notes of the contemporary, upscale, but jeans-are-totally-cool restaurant. Staff welcomed us immediately and sat us at one of the few open tables. We were pleased to see such a boisterous crowd on a late Thursday evening. The restaurant can be loud, though the amount of wine flowing at neighboring tables plays a factor in total volume.

The waitstaff at Starfish are very good. Don’t swing by here if you’re looking for a quick bite, or if you’re leaving the house at 7:00 and must make an 8:00 curtain at the Majestic. We worked through our cocktails and a tray of bread before our vegetable escabeche appetizer arrived. The kitchen is currently promoting a “fall menu,” and we were glad to see generally in-season vegetables on the opening dish. Red, white and yellow sauces (that were not ketchup, mustard and mayo) complemented brussel sprouts, radishes, carrots and cauliflower.

Starfish offers a good number of seafood options (obviously), as well as a handful of land-bound proteins. We chose the salmon and the halibut for main courses. The salmon came with an unexpected chunk of pork that was fatty, delicious and went perfectly with the fish. The halibut was served on a banana leaf with crispy plantain chips and a spicy coconut jus. Though quite different in style, both dishes reflect the chef’s meticulous eye for color and presentation, as well as refreshingly global perspective. They tasted pretty good, too.

Knowing that we couldn’t write a proper review without mentioning dessert, we decided to finish with the key lime tart. Crafted by Maria del Carmen Fernandez, resident pastry chef and Diego’s wife, the tart was framed by a heavy brushstroke of red raspberry jam. The effect was nearly as dramatic as the moment when Patrick dislodged a portion of the crust and sent the projectile flying towards our neighbors. Needless to say, the crust was begrudgingly crusty, but definitely worth the work.

We left stuffed, satisfied, and well past our bedtime. Although there were no starfish on the menu, Starfish lived up to expectations. We welcome this new addition to Southtown’s culinary scene.

- Kristin Krenz & Patrick Steck