there’s johnny: killer shrimp

It’s my birthday. Friends Joy and Tommy have colluded to spirit me off to some unknown destination for a celebratory dinner. Or my death. I mean, surprise birthday dinner was the pitch. “We’re taking you out for your birthday, it’s a surprise where!” the initial invite. But now that we three are in a car driving all the conversation revolves around my impending murder. A Carl’s Jr. may be involved? There is a brief reprieve, when talking about future blog posts I am planning I ask if anyone is interested in visiting Eataly with me, (an Italian style market and restaurant depot in Century City as well as other cities). Joy gets stuck wondering why i am pronouncing Italy so strange. This sends her into hysterics. I fear we’ve lost her for good when she finally stops madly giggling and we return to discussing my imminent demise. When it becomes clear we are headed towards the water, drowning is hot topic. At one point the car ride is taken over by a fact finding mission of how chloroform actually works. Tommy reads off his phone from the back seat. Turns out it doesn’t perform like in the movies. The rag they have no doubt soaked in it to hold over my mouth and nose would have lost it’s potency with the prolonged oxygen exposure. And, in fact, even direct application wouldn’t knock me out for up to 5 minutes. Not the instant success promised by Hollywood. Add it to the list. Fear not kind reader, Tommy and Joy seem in no way deterred from their task. It may just require a little more muscle, but with plenty of can do American spirit, they are still confident in their mission. I know about where I am when we turn onto Admiralty Way in Marina Del Rey. I’ve taken a boat trip and rode jet skis off these docks. And, it probably would be a good spot to dump someone into the water. Huh. As we arrive at our destination, it sounds murderous for sure. We pull into the parking lot at Killer Shrimp.

Killer Shrimp has been in operation for over 20 years and best known for serving one signature dish. Take a guess? Once with multiple locations, it’s now down to one, a perfect, picturesque spot overlooking a marina in Marina Del Rey. Joy has mentioned the restaurant several times. A standout for her, introduced to by friend Kim, (Joy collects Kims), back when a now closed location lived in North Hollywood. She thoughtfully selected the spot since I am observing Lent (raise your hand if you saw that one coming) and so am not eating meat on Fridays. The joint is jumping and in we go.

It’s a 30 minute wait for a table so we take up residence at the bar. The wine list is painfully generic. A handful of mass produced name brands show no imagination or IMG_0120care. In fairness, the signature dish here has some real spice to it and spicy is notoriously
hard to pair with wine. It dulls the fruitiness and body while heightening the acidity and bitterness. Think about classically spicy cuisines and ask yourself if they produce wine there. Mexico? Thailand? Sweet is your best option, so try a Riesling with your next Thai meal if you are so inclined. For tonight I will abandon my wine lust. We all try a specialty mixed cocktail. I start off with a rum based, passionfruit, tiki style drink that claims to be an original Marina Del Rey concoction. I failed to write down the name or ingredients and the online drinks menu is outdated. It was a perfectly jovial beverage to start the night on. I do remember Tommy got a “Black Tea Collins” cause I thought to myself they somehow found a way to make a Collins even more British. In less than thirty minutes, we’re being seated with a view of the water.

We order Lobster Mac & Cheese and Fried Calamari to start things off. I’ve moved onto beer, Sam Adams, cause I’m a patriot. Also, when I ran the Big Sur Marathon Sam Adams sponsored the event and so at the finish line I received a free beer. It was the single greatest beer I ever drank. Since then I always order Sam Adams when available because
I’m now programmed. Back at the appetizers, the calamari breading is rather tasty but mostly the two are fine but uninspired. But please take your seats; the star of the show is about to arrive. Keeping it simple and what they are famous for, I ordered the Killer IMG_0122Shrimp “Original”, springing the extra $2 dollars for the shelled shrimp; a worthwhile expense I’d say. And fuck it, I’m being treated and they’re killing me later. You only live for a few more hours once. Tommy does the same as me, Joy gets her shrimp with a lobster tail included. The shrimp rests in a large bowl of intensely flavorful, spicy broth. A basket of bread is placed in the center of the table for use soaking up the liquid. The shrimp plus broth are a bomb of flavor; robust, fiery and savory. We take guesses about what ingredients might populate the dish. Pepper, chili pepper, butter, salt, rosemary and paprika are among the contestants. Either way it’s really delicious. I’m not a spicy guy thanks to Mom and genetics it can just upset my tummy. Plus in my opinion watery eyes and a runny nose is never a good look at a dinner table even if it is from heat and not sickness. The Killer Shrimp walks up to the line but doesn’t cross it. I gobble up all my shrimp, several pieces of soaked french bread and more. A great meal concludes when the waitress brings an Ice Cream Sunday with a candle burning. Singing follows. I forget what song it was. We loiter a bit after and I stare longingly at the fish tank. In the days before Harlow (the dark ages), I had a fish tank. We take in the marina on this beautiful night; even snap a photo or two. Then, I am falling. The water is freezing but I am more immediately concerned about the cinder block attached to my bound wrists that’s making a beeline for the bottom of the sea!

It would be quite the twist if this blog post was from the grave. Spooky! But showing considerable restraint, Joy and Tommy do no murder on this night. So, no death. Sorry guys. But one friend from New York did text me, “happy closer to death day”. I remember birthdays playing to a different tune when I was younger. Solidly in my forties.

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