Cafe Society: Seafood idea boils over for owners of new Ventura restaurant

By: LISA MCKINNON/THE STAR | August 22, 2015 | vcstar.com

 

Brothers-in-law Jerrico Reyes, left, and Marlon Arsenal pose in the doorway of their new restaurant, Ventura Crab N Spice. Arsenal made the host stand using a beer keg and a baking sheet.

Brothers-in-law Jerrico Reyes, left, and Marlon Arsenal pose in the doorway of their new restaurant, Ventura Crab N Spice. Arsenal made the host stand using a beer keg and a baking sheet.

Like most restaurants, Ventura Crab N Spice is a no-shirt, no-shoes, no-service kind of place. But wearing a plastic bib or a pair of gloves is entirely up to you.

“It can get a bit messy,” said co-owner Marlon Arsenal of the eat-with-your-hands concept behind the seafood boil-themed restaurant he and brother-in-law Jerrico Reyes opened this week in the Telephone Road Plaza. (For the record, utensils are yours for the asking.)

Both residents of Woodland Hills and co-owners of a home health care business, the men love to travel and try new foods with family members, Arsenal said.

Their introduction to Cajun-spiced seafood boils came courtesy of The Boiling Crab in Alhambra, where bags of crabs, shrimp, corn and other goodies are ceremoniously dumped onto wax paper-lined tables. Their group waited more than an hour to get in and loved every minute of the experience, Arsenal said with a laugh.

A “coming soon” banner is seen in the window at Ventura Crab N Spice in the Telephone Road Plaza. The restaurant, which opened this week, specializes in seafood boils served on paper-lined tables.

A “coming soon” banner is seen in the window at Ventura Crab N Spice in the Telephone Road Plaza. The restaurant, which opened this week, specializes in seafood boils served on paper-lined tables.

After sampling more seafood-boil fare at Kickin KAsian in Northridge, they started working on recipes for a place of their own.

The result is Ventura Crab N Spice, where diners order crawfish, shrimp, lobster tails, Dungeness crab and other seafood by the pound. Then they select a flavor from choices that range from the typical (lemon and garlic) to the not-so-much.

“We came up with pineapple and light coconut flavors — the coconut because there is so much interest in coconut water now. Both are really good with shrimp,” Arsenal said.

Diners also choose the spice level, ranging from the mild “original” to the superhot AssasiN8, a moniker suggested by a family friend named Nate. Optional add-ons include corn, sausage and hard-boiled quail eggs.

The menu also offers steamed rice ($1) and garlic noodles ($4), along with baskets of fried calamari ($9), chicken wings ($10) and cod and fries ($12.50).

The beverage list includes fountain drinks, Thai iced tea and, yes, coconut water. Listed under “extras” are such items as tins of breath-freshening Altoids ($1) and pairs of plastic gloves (25 cents).

Ventura Crab N Spice is located at what used to be a sushi restaurant next to The Habit and across from Royal Bakery. Its décor is industrial chic meets seafood shack, with an exposed ceiling, an unstained cement floor, red metal tub chairs for a pop of color and walls covered with fishing nets and panels of the same composite plywood used by roofers.

The narrow space seats about 40 people. Reyes and Arsenal have already leased the vacant space next door for future use as an expanded dining room. After all, said Arsenal, you don’t want people to wait too long to get in.

Hours are 3 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and noon to 10 p.m. Fridays through Sundays (4732 Telephone Road, Suite 5B, 535-4363, http://venturacrabnspice.com).

Taken two days before the restaurant’s opening this week, a photo shows the current location of Ventura Crab N Spice, right, and the vacant space into which its owners plan to expand in 2016, at left.

Taken two days before the restaurant’s opening this week, a photo shows the current location of Ventura Crab N Spice, right, and the vacant space into which its owners plan to expand in 2016, at left.