As Bubba from the film “Forrest Gump” put it, “shrimp is the fruit of the sea.” These aquatic appetizers are prepared in so many ways and end up as delicious no matter the method. Get your decapod crustacean fix at one of these fine establishments.
Son of A Gun
8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
This restaurant from Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook (Animal) is named after a child of disputed parentage; it is also the undisputed champ of mind-blowing seafood creations.
People have nautical dreams of their Shrimp Toast Sandwich. Ground shrimp paste (mixed with pork fat, garlic, ginger, egg white and soy) is spread onto Pain de mie that is pan-fried to a righteous golden brown crisp. The shrimp filling is topped with sriracha mayo, hoison sauce, cilantro, mint, basil and watercress (tossed with fish sauce vinaigrette). It’s sweet, it’s salty and it’s worth every bastard calorie. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself mouthing off sailor-like expletives to express your enjoyment, all the way down to the last savory bite.
Starry Kitchen Nights
At Tiara Café
127 E 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
With a down-to-earth restaurant owner that will more likely be spotted sporting a banana costume than a suit any day of the week, how can you not already love this place? It’s not all fun and games, however, because Nguyen and Thi Tran (the mom and pop behind the shop) bring some seriously aromatic, authentic and intense Pan-Asian flavors to the table. They have semi-permanently popped up in Tiara Café, offering dinner service in the Fashion District of Downtown LA.
According to Nguyen, the Salted Duck Egg Cereal Prawns are a beautiful mash-up of two Singaporean dishes: Cereal Prawns and Butter Shrimp. They take sashimi-grade prawns and swath it in a glorious coating of salted duck egg yolks, special Singaporean cereal flakes, fresh curry leaves, curry powder, Fresno/Thai chilies and last but not least, butter. The result is a wonderfully crunchy texture surrounding a delectable center that will make you do that dance you did as a kid when you ate something that made your taste buds sing.
13488 Maxella Ave
Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Chef Ricardo Zarate (Picca, Mo-Chica) has dropped anchor to stake claim on what is easily the most innovative thing to happen to the Marina Del Rey food scene. Here, you can get a taste of Peruvian coastal cuisine kissed with Japanese influences.
The blue-hued restaurant brings diners to a sophisticated under the sea atmosphere; it’s a shining beacon of light in an area that you would otherwise pass up. The menu here boasts more than 60 small plates to of inventive cuisine to explore, such as the Blue Prawn Ceviche (sashimi style), served like a crustacean island beauty, propped up in a bath of bright yellow leche de tigre sauce.
The Boiling Crab
When your server wraps a plastic bib around your neck, you know it’s go time. This is a great place to get some messy quality time in with family and friends. This casual Viet-Cajun eatery has built a mini-empire of locations at which people will wait for extended periods of time to get their hands on the bagged seafood delights.
Although the restaurant has crab in the name, go for the Shrimp Boil with the Whole Sha-Bang for a no-holds-barred seafood carnage feast. The shrimp is sold per pound and served in steamy plastic bag-contained splendor, swimming in seasoning that is a mixture of spicy Cajun, lemon pepper, fresh garlic and a secret ingredient that gives it the added oomph people go crazy for. This is primal dining at its best, so tie your hair back and don’t come here wearing long sleeves, the color white, or on a first date (unless garlic breath that doesn’t quit is your thing).
12565 Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Who knew IHOP architecture could be so hip? Repurposed into a literal A-Frame building, guests are welcomed by an invitingly intimate atmosphere. Awesome tunes are booming through the sound system, energy is high, seating is communal and the staff is genuinely happy to be here. The dishes are just as delicious as they are wittily named, served up on bright plates with silverware casually available to grab as you need it from the table. Chef Roy Choi wanted to create a place that conveyed aloha spirit, and he did just that with this “modern picnic” party.
In true backyard picnic form, get down on some Peel & Eat Shrimp, seasoned with Kaffir lime leaf salt and served with cocktail sauce for dipping. It’s food that makes you work, but it’ll be worth it. This item is only available during A-Frame’s Happy Hour that takes place Monday through Friday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. so plan your visit accordingly.
Related: Best Beachside Happy Hours In LA
Joy Bitonio has the phrase “Joie de Vivre” tattooed on her shoulder, a reminder to enjoy life every single day. She has a voracious appetite for fun, adventure, food, good cocktails and works out like a madwoman to keep it all together. Check out her other articles on CBS L.A. She also covers fitness on Examiner. Follow her on Twitter.