By Karen Salkin
For those of you who haven’t been to the ‘Killer Shrimp’ restaurant in Marina del Rey, California for a while, I’m here to let you know that this is not your father’s Killer Shrimp! Actually, it’s not even owner Kevin Michaels’ father’s Killer Shrimp, whose family recipe was the beginning of this popular eatery, which began in a small, unadorned space with just the one dish. A few years ago, he turned it over to son Kevin, and it’s a whole different animal, although they still have their signature shrimp dish atop the menu.
Some pals and I went there last week, and it was so fabulous, on so many levels, that this is going to be a long review, so settle in. Let’s start with some background on the place.
More than two decades ago, ’70s rock singer Lee Michaels opened his location in the Marina with just one dish on the menu–Killer Shrimp. It was shrimp with the shell on, swimming in a secret spicy broth, (the spices are top-secret to this day!) and you got slices of French bread to soak up more of the sauce. Period. I went there once, and I remember it being delicious, but then, because my dream is to eat at every restaurant in Los Angeles, if not the world, I just never went back. (And also, even though I’m far from the prima donna, some viewers of my former show, Karen’s Restaurant Revue, think I am, I really don’t want to peel my own shrimp, ever.)
Then recently, a pal of mine on the East Coast, who had just heard about Killer Shrimp, asked me if I had ever reviewed the place, and when I mentioned that to Mr. X, he asked me, “What’s your review going to be—the shrimp is good???” So I looked at the menu to see if perhaps they had added any other items to it, and I was shocked by what I found! It was one of the most gorgeous, extensive menus I’ve ever seen! And there was something for everyone, including about twenty dishes for picky eater me! My mouth started watering immediately, so I got together some of the original members of my Femme Fatales, and we headed down to the Marina for what turned out to be an incredible meal.
The first surprise of the evening was the easy parking, right in their non-valeted lot. Next was the variety of eating areas they had in that one edifice; there is the main dining room with booths, another one with tables, the patio, a happening bar with sports on several TVs, an adjacent breakfast café that looks like a ’50s diner, and at least three party rooms. It took us half an hour just to decide where to sit!
We chose a big booth facing the water, but we were so entranced by the food that we barely remembered to look up from the table! Being the big yentas that we are, we chatted a while with owners Kevin and Brett, a manager who’s also named Brett, and unruffled waitresses Stephanie and Melissa, all of whom are founts of information on all things Killer Shrimp. So don’t hesitate to ask them anything when you go there.
We ordered tons of food, so that I’d have a lot to tell you about, and we loved just about everything; you’ll have a lot to choose from should you follow my suggestions here. And every single dish we tried was a generous portion! (My associates noted that fact for everything they reviewed, so just add that comment on when you read about the individual items. Like how you add on a particular phrase to the fortunes in fortune cookies).
Three of us don’t drink, but Flo, having heard so much about their specialty alcoholic beverages, was more than happy to try one. She went with the KS Mojito. (OMG!!! I just realized that this restaurant shares my initials! So no wonder it’s great!) It came in a tall tumbler with crushed ice, and she loved that “the fresh mint dominated.” We all agreed that it was absolutely beautiful, with Flo noting that it “looked and felt festive,” and she appreciated that it was “prepared with care.” Celia dubbed it a “party in a glass!”
Now to the food. We had to, of course, start with the killer shrimp! But now you can have a choice of it served six different ways, so we went with the shelled (yay!) version, with the French bread. It was a tad spicy for my wimpy self, but Celia and Flo went nuts for it. They agreed that the shrimp themselves were “firm,” and the sauce was “succulent, and spicy, with a perfect broth for dunking the bread.”
The favorite dish of those two turned out to be the “rich, yet light” lobster mac and cheese, which Kevin highly recommended. (I don’t eat lobster, so I just ordered a little side dish of unadorned mac and cheese, and let me tell you–it was scrumptious!) They declared that they were “speechless” over it, and “can’t wait to have it again.” (But they regained their speech in time to mention that the sauce was “creamy,” and the “chunks of lobster had a great bite.”)
While we’re on the subject of lobster, Marcia said to let you know that the deal of the century is the “tender and luscious” lobster tail that you can add on to any entrée for a mere $10! She was in heaven over it. (She already has her next meal at Killer Shrimp all planned.)
All three of the women went nuts for the “smoky-tasting” Caesar salad that came in two big, long chunks of romaine. (Feel free to ask them to cut it up for you, like we did.) Flo said the shaved Parmesan slices that adorned it were the best she’s ever had, with Marcia (who fancies herself a Caesar salad connoisseur) concurring, and adding that it was “perfect.”
In the category of appetizers, I had eyes for only the absolutely delicious sliders! I could have eaten all three myself, but being the generous gal that I am, I shared. Flo admired the “high quality beef” and “pretty bun,” while Celia, (who was moved to wax poetic over the food,) said she “could smell the char-broiled-ness on the way into” her mouth, “which made the taste even more perfect.” I just scarfed, and mumbled, “Yum!”
Now on to the entrées. There was not a weak one in the bunch. Celia’s salmon was “moist, and not fishy,” and Marcia’s scallops were “large, tender, and delicious.” Several of us tried the swordfish that came with squash, peppers, and onions, (more on all the side dishes in a moment,) and I loved it more than anything! It was perfect and heavenly, and if truth be told, I really hated sharing this one. But we were all also sharing the grilled New York steak, and how much can one girl eat?
Celia said that the steak was “very tender, and perfectly cooked.” We all agreed that it was a “nice cut,” and the herb butter on top ensured that it was “well-seasoned, and juicy.” Because I abhor wasting food, and even four hungry people can’t finish everything that we ordered, I brought a little bit of the pan-roasted chicken breast home to Mr. X, who doesn’t even like chicken as a rule, and he could not stop raving about it! I’ve rarely seen him love a dish that much.
Now to the side dishes. All the entrées, (except for the pasta, I’m assuming,) come with one of their several potatoes, and you can also order any of them, and others, à la carte. So we mixed and matched, and were not disappointed in any of them! We were divided over the garlic mashed potatoes and the ones with blue cheese, which were both “light,” and “exceptionally creamy.” (Although I was in the half that liked the garlic ones better, I totally appreciated that there was a flavor option in the mashed potato category, which is rare.)
We ordered both the French fries and sweet potato fries well done, and I swear, if they had been the only thing I ate that day, I would’ve still been content. They were perfect fries, and I was happy knowing that I could come here with vegetarian friends and they would have an excellent meal eating just the side dishes. That includes the roasted asparagus which were “crunchy, with great snap.” (I think the ladies got carried away trying to portray how fresh they were. You get a little punchy after eating enough a small army.) The spices on them were also great.
And last, but far from least, was the loaded baked potato, which came with butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, bacon, and chives, and was a meal unto itself!
One would think that after all that, we couldn’t have eaten another bite, but one would have been wrong! As anyone who knows me knows, there is no way I would give up dessert. (And I love that it’s listed on the same one page menu as everything else, so I can plan my meals backwards, as I always do.) We tried four of the five, with the freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with vanilla ice cream being voted the winner. The ladies felt that the presentation in a hot cast-iron skillet was “unusual” (in a good way,) and Flo queried, “Who can resist that?!”
She also enjoyed the warm apple crumble, (which I think was big enough for four people, even with no other desserts,) and declared it “just the thing for a cold night.” Marcia’s favorite was the “rich and creamy, moist” chocolate blackout cake with homemade whipped cream, which I joined her in gobbling-up. I’m really a fan of that whipped cream! We were too busy with the other three to pay a lot of attention to the sweet potato pecan pie, so I brought most of that home to Mr. X, who got a kick out of that it was “like eating two desserts in one.”
Okay, I’m full again just writing this review! I know it’s long, but I’m just so happy to be able to recommend so many menu items so wholeheartedly. If you’re in the Marina, but not in the mood for a full meal, they also have a late night happy hour in addition to the normal afternoon one, and you can try some of their most popular dishes that way. And for you lucky Central Coast folks, there’s a Killer Shrimp in Santa Barbara now, as well.
4211 Admiralty Way Marina del Rey 310-578-2293 www.killershrimp.com
Photos courtesy of Killer Shrimp.