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The Gossiping Gourmet: New treats abound at an old favorite

September 19, 2012|By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz | By Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz
  • Ginger chicken meatballs in thai peanut sauce on sweet 'n' sour cucumber is one of the popular appetizers at 230 Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach.
Ginger chicken meatballs in thai peanut sauce on sweet… (DON LEACH, HB Independent )

It's always a pleasure to dine with an old friend and 230 Forest Avenue is one of our favorites. No matter how many times we visit, the food is always reliably good. With occasional changes in the menu, there is always something new to try, if that's your pleasure (or if you're a restaurant reviewer). Chef Marc Cohen has managed to maintain a consistent level of quality.

It's almost always buzzy but not so noisy that you can't have a nice conversation. On a warm summer night, the sidewalk patio is especially agreeable but the contemporary design of the space indoors is equally pleasant. Rotating modern art exhibits adorn the wall and an eat-in bar area with tall stools fills one corner.

We were pleased to see tempting new appetizers on the menu and decided to compose our dinner based on these new choices. One of our guests was very disappointed that the burger was not served at dinner because he had heard great things about it. Our very accommodating waiter said, "The chef doesn't do that," but he would ask. Perhaps, because it wasn't too busy at the time or he guessed we were writing a review, we got our burger. But if you want one, better go there for lunch.

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New to us were the chicken meatballs. Five good-sized, plump, well-seasoned meatballs with a sweet glaze on the bottom were skewered on thick rounds of marinated cucumber slices. Between the cucumber and the meatball were shavings of Japanese sweet pickled ginger. The finishing touch was a dollop of Asian style peanut sauce with a scattering of finely chopped peanuts. They were layered with flavor and absolutely delectable.

A great take on fried spring rolls is stuffed with duck confit. They were mostly tender, slightly salty, leg meat with a bit of crunch from slivered carrots and leeks. The crispy but not greasy rolls were great on their own but the sweet hot gingery sauce was hard to resist. Hoisin sauce that was painted on the plate provided yet a new taste for another bite. A fresh crunchy little salad was a refreshing accompaniment.

Three little racks of three little ribs of lamb were slow-cooked until the meat was meltingly tender, yet the surface was deliciously browned. A small bowl of a mild pureed romesco sauce (red peppers, tomatoes and almonds) was provided for dipping.

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