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The Gossiping Gourmet: Peony and Sushi Corner a pleasant surprise

July 25, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • The honey garlic wild jumbo shrimp at Peony and Sushi Corner in Laguna Beach is lightly fried with honey, garlic, and broccoli on the side.
The honey garlic wild jumbo shrimp at Peony and Sushi Corner… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

We were flabbergasted. We found ourselves eating possibly the best shrimp we had ever tasted.

Caught in the wild, the shrimp were jumbo in size, incredibly tender, moist, juicy and tasting so fresh.

We chose the shrimp with honey garlic from a selection of three preparations. The sauce was light and delicately sweet, with a hint of garlic that subtly enhanced the perfectly cooked crustaceans.

A sprinkling of sesame seeds completed the dish. The florets of broccoli that came on the side were also as fresh as vegetables can be, with just the right touch of crunch.

The surprise was that we were dining at Peony, the healthy Chinese restaurant in the little food court on the corner of Broadway and Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. They recently moved from a very small space, where their business was primarily take-out and delivery, to a larger space next door.

The new space actually has a pleasant little dining area, decorated with wall-sized photographs of the family's village in Szechwan province. The Tang dynasty-style clay figures depicting everyday life, which sit atop the front counter, also charmed us.

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Peony has now added a sushi bar, called Sushi Corner, with a separate menu so you can sample both cuisines in one meal.

The Chinese food at Peony is light and healthy. They have replaced peanut oil with olive oil and use much less of it when they fry. They serve whitemeat chicken only and use no MSG.

Noodle dishes may be ordered with chow mein (wheat) or rice noodles. They offer brown rice, as well as white, and, when possible, will prepare dishes to accommodate special dietary restrictions. Most of their sauces are quite light and subtle, but very tasty.

The house garlic chicken is marked on the menu with a chili pepper, indicating a very spicy dish, but we found it to be more on the medium side. The sliced breast meat was unusually tender and moist; it was stir-fried with a generous mélange of broccoli, carrots and onions in a light soy-based sauce.

Veering from traditional Chinese chicken dishes are: teriyaki chicken, curry chicken and chicken with mango and asparagus.

An ample portion of tender and moist steamed fillets of sole with a garlic, soy, wine sauce with no oil — a dieter's delight — rested on a bed of delicately seasoned cabbage and carrots.

Still more unusual is the absence of pork dishes.

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