Shrimp tend to hover near the bottom of the food chain in the shellfish world. They lack the luxurious cache of lobster and uni and the chef appeal of scallops; and as far as locality is concerned (for diners on the East Coast at least) they simply can’t hold a candle to oysters, mussels, and clams. And yet, Park Slope’s just-opened Prawn Shop has elected to shine a spotlight on the sorely unsung crustacean, allowing them to finally strut their stuff sans grits and cocktail sauce.
Located in the accursed Taco Santo/Fort Reno space (where the tight confines and odd corners actually work beautifully for a fish shack), Prawn Shop already ticks off plenty of boxes, when it comes to addressing prevailing concerns in the restaurant world. They’ve instituted a no-tipping policy, boast a largely organic/biodynamic wine list, and have commissioned chef Kimberly Plafke—formerly of Cannibal, Resto and Fishtail—to captain the galley kitchen. But it’s a unique commitment to the plight of prawns that takes their sea-to-table ethos to another level; eschewing the irresponsibly sourced, preservative- and chemical-laden specimens from Asia (which imports over 90 percent of the United States supply), for shrimp culled from the Gulf Coast, which are subject to greater human rights and food safety regulations.
Frequently presented with their antennaed helmets still attached (the better for sucking out the lusty innards, which taste like the sea incarnate), prawns appear on the menu in a number of guises. Yes, there’s the traditional cocktail, but also ceviche; featuring sweet lumps of shrimp tossed with tomatillo, jalapeno and cilantro, and acid-flashed with lime. Small plates include prawn and mussel chowder or citrusy seafood sausage, rosy-hued and yielding as pate; while larger feeds showcase pan-roasted prawns, served over seasonal greens and mascarpone polenta—a worthy alternative to grits—as well as crunchy, head-to-tail prawns and chips, coated with cornbread batter. Then there are the boils, with peel-and-eat prawns offered by the half or whole pound, and submerged in a choice of sauce, from a classic East Coast amalgam of butter, Old Bay and beer and a Cali-style cioppino, to an Asian green curry or a good old Southern gumbo.
Sure, you can elect to order mussels, crab, or eventually even crawfish instead, but at Park Slope’s Prawn Shop, shrimp are definitely the big fish on campus.
669 Union Street, Park Slope