Bag up some tasty seafood at Shrimp By You in Torrance

Seafood — including shrimp, which is paired here with corn on the cob — is spiced up Cajun style and enjoyed by the bag at Shrimp By You in Torrance. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)
Seafood — including shrimp, which is paired here with corn on the cob — is spiced up Cajun style and enjoyed by the bag at Shrimp By You in Torrance. (Photo by Merrill Shindler)
Oysters at Shrimp By You (Photo by Merrill Shindler)
Oysters at Shrimp By You (Photo by Merrill Shindler)

SHRIMP BY YOU

★★

Address: 2755-A Pacific Coast Highway, Torrance

Information: 424-347-7188, www.shrimpbyyou.com

Cuisine: Cajun seafood

When: Lunch and dinner, every day.

Details: Beer and wine; no reservations

Atmosphere: Shopping mall seafood restaurant, a bit industrial in design, with an oyster bar and tables both tall and low for groups, which is probably the best way to enjoy the big buckets of highly spiced shellfish

Prices: About $35 per person

Suggested dishes: Shrimp Tacos ($8.99), Steamed Mussels ($12.99), Steamed Clams ($13.99), Clam Chowder ($5.99), Shellfish (Market Price), Oysters ($14.99/$26.99), Ultimate Seafood Combo ($119)

Cards: MC, V

Sadly, I stopped writing about the tidal wave of incredibly messy shellfish-in-a-bag joints a while back, simply because they were all pretty much the same place. It’s a culinary trend that began (at least locally) with a restaurant from the Gulf Coast called The Boiling Crab and which picked up an untold number of imitators.

That’s fine because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as they say. But, as with the perhaps even larger tidal wave of poke shops, the shoebox of adjectives has grown a bit shopworn. So, I’ve given crab and shrimp in a sundry of sauces, all dumped on the table, a bit of a break.

But then, I came upon the oddly named Shrimp by You in a Torrance shopping mall that’s easy to miss, since it’s across the street from imposing Rolling Hills Plaza, with its Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and AMC 20 and many, many restaurants. But there it is, sharing a building with a branch of Panera, just a short stroll from a Chuck E. Cheese ­— a hotbed of crab, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels — and for a notable change, an oyster bar.

Most of the Cajun shellfish shops pretty much begin and end with a pile of critters on the table, waiting for you to hungrily pull them apart in the hunt for that elusive, yummy morsel of meat. Some offer some deep-fried dishes as well, making this a tough concept in which to maintain that much-desired bathing suit body.

But at Shrimp by You, there are alternatives, and lot of them, beginning with the oyster bar, where chubby Minter Sweet oysters from the Pacific Northwest are served by the half-dozen and the dozen. And though there are sauces offered with them, nothing is all that spicy — a break from the rest of the meal.

And if you don’t want to speckle your clothing with spice and sauce, which you inevitably will do, there’s a small, efficient menu of dishes such as a thick (perhaps too thick) clam chowder, chicken tenders served with french fries, decent (but small) fish tacos and shrimp tacos, seriously spicy chicken wings, clams and mussels (both steamed) and even pasta with a garlic butter sauce, and chicken or shrimp, if you want. You could dine here, and not come anywhere near the shellfish. Though that’s not what most opt to do: At most tables, it’s shellfish uber alles, a regular orgy of carapace.

The options (all at market prices), are Dungeness crab, snow crab, king crab, lobster, shrimp, clams and mussels. The shrimp, clams and mussels are the bargain basement of the selection, running abut $10 a pound for the bivalves and a bit more for the shrimp, while several of the crab options run four times that much. (I guess there used to be crawfish, but the option is crossed out on the blackboard price list, though perhaps it comes back in season.)

You can also just simplify the process, by going for The Ultimate Seafood Combo: 2 pounds of shrimp, a pound of clams, a pound of mussels, a pound of snow crab and a whole lobster, for $119, which the menu tells us serves two to four. That’s a lot of food for two people. But then, once you get started, it’s hard to stop. And no matter what option you go for, you have to go through the process of picking your sauce (lemon garlic butter, black pepper sauce or Cajun), and your heat level (“bang,” “bang bang” or “bang bang bang”). And, for a few dollars more, tricking out the feed with smoked sausage, corn on the cob, red potatoes, a baguette or white rice, which in this company seems very white indeed.

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It arrives in a plastic bag, in a red sauce that will soon be all over the table — and all over you. This is not polite, fork and knife chow.

This is food you dive into, swigging randomly from one of the local beers on draft, and generally doing what our mamas told us not to do, which is to play with our food. Shrimp by You is all about playing with your food. It’s so nice to be a grown-up, since you can be a kid again anytime you wish.

Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Send him email at mreats@aol.com.

Shrimp by You

Rating: 2 stars

Address: 2755-A Pacific Coast Highway, Torrance

Information: 424-347-7188, www.shrimpbyyou.com

Cuisine: Cajun seafood

When: Lunch and dinner, every day.

Details: Beer and wine; no reservations

Atmosphere: Shopping mall seafood restaurant, a bit industrial in design, with an oyster bar and tables both tall and low for groups, which is probably the best way to enjoy the big buckets of highly spiced shellfish

Prices: About $35 per person

Suggested dishes: Shrimp Tacos ($8.99), Steamed Mussels ($12.99), Steamed Clams ($13.99), Clam Chowder ($5.99), Shellfish (Market Price), Oysters ($14.99/$26.99), Ultimate Seafood Combo ($119)

Cards: MC, V

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About the Author

Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Send him email at mreats@aol.com. Reach the author at mreats@aol.com .