I did not want to like the Nashville hot shrimp at the new Yours Truly restaurant in Venice. It sounded like something designed to latch on to the periphery of the hot chicken craze gripping Los Angeles.
I told myself this “hot” shrimp would just be spicy shrimp on white bread, and expected to ridicule the fried crustacean with every bite. I was wrong.
Chef Vartan Abgaryan says he put the dish on his menu after testing seven iterations. He uses Australian A6 prawns, which he dredges and fries, then douses in a hot oil he makes by cooking down the heads and shells and then adding a hot spice mixture.
The shrimp arrive encased in a brick-red crust and rest on a square of toasted milk bread surrounded by a purposely overdressed slaw that pools around the plate. The heat climbs quickly, hovering around an elevated threat level yellow. There’s a welcome hit of brininess from the shrimp oil. You can taste the sweetness of paprika. A little Aleppo pepper too, and a lot of cayenne.
Do not ignore the bread and that slaw. Like the slice of white bread and the pickle chips served alongside hot chicken in Nashville, both are intended to help tame the fire.
“Everyone is eating Nashville hot chicken and in all honesty, when I saw Mei [Lin] at Nightshade doing hot quail, I said, ‘T hat’s such a cool idea,’” Abgaryan said. His hot shrimp is “ a little more refined, but it has a grab-it-with-your-hands-and-bite-it type of feel.”
1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310) 396-9333, ytvenice.com.