Dumpling Duo: Fullerton’s new restaurant, Pirates Kitchen, nearly made us walk the plank

In Food, Lifestyle
illustration of Tracy, Hannah and Gabe on a pirate ship

We didn’t know what we were walking into – ropes, flags with skulls and fake lobsters decorated the walls and ceilings of Pirates Kitchen, a new restaurant that popped up just down the street from Cal State Fullerton.

After the little dumpling did some research on Yelp, we were interested.

Only a few minutes walk from school, we grabbed our bags and dragged along one of our photo editors, Gabe Gandara, down for dinner.

Walking into the joint, we were not expecting to be greeted by an actual pirate – well, a worker dressed in a pirate costume. The only worker dressed as a pirate.

Looking around, it was pretty sparse for a Friday night. Maybe it’s because the workers bombard customers with questions as soon as they walk in, like the four employees who asked us how big our party was, all within seconds of one another. Two employees led us to our table, and then, nothing.

We sat at our table for what felt like years; our bodies began deteriorating as we slowly lost our minds. Families came in after us, one after the other being seated, ordering and devouring what we could only smell.

The lone pirate circled the restaurant multiple times. Each time we desperately tried to make eye contact, at first so we could order, but it quickly turned into a grapple for survival. We were all ready to risk our lives dueling the pirate if it meant we would find nourishment.

After 45 minutes of emotional torture, we began waving our arms for help. The hostess spotted our SOS and meandered over to our table, making every pit stop she could along the way. Stopping at our table, she explained the menu we had become painfully familiar with over the course of our desertion. Asking us what we’d like to drink (because we still had yet to be served water), she vanished.

She took hope with her.

The menu resembles that of other cajun restaurants similar to The Boiling Crab. Seafood was sold by the pound with a variety of sauces, and they also offered pastas and soups.

Our waitress finally arrived with waters and a bowl of lemons and limes. Gabe frowned in silent disappointment – he ordered a Sprite. But we were already too beaten down to complain.

When we finally ordered, we spoke as if we had been rehearsing our lines for years (it definitely felt like we had been).

Two pounds of shrimp with their supposedly coveted PK (Pirate’s Kitchen) sauce, calamari and cajun fries for us, and clam chowder and popcorn shrimp for Gabe.

A bowl of clam chowder surrounded by checkered paper
(Gabe Gandara / Daily Titan)

The food arrived just after 9 p.m. Ravaged, we drew deep breaths as we practiced self-control. Gabe still had to photograph the food. We waited longer with eyes glazed over in pure agony until it was finally time to eat.

Gabe delicately ate his clam chowder, commending it for its hearty and creamy consistency. His popcorn shrimp was also cooked adequately. And although the batter was nothing special, the shrimp inside melted in our mouths.

We were not so elegant.

Shrimp heads, shells and PK sauce soon took over our table, flying from our hands as we slowly watched ourselves turn into mannerless pirates ourselves. It wasn’t until our hunger became satiated that we could finally taste what we were so eagerly shoving into our mouths.

While the cajun fries tasted crisp and fresh, as if they were just taken out of the fryer, the calamari may as well have been rubber.

Our two-pound bag of shrimp didn’t meet expectations either, the sauce was weak and barely covered the shrimp in our bag. It tasted like cajun powder, paling in comparison to other by-the-pound cajun places, which often have notes of garlic and lemon.

Most of it followed us home in doggie bags.

However, sitting overnight in a fridge, the sauce was able to marinate the shrimp and the flavors mixed into a delicious surprise the next day.

While the PK sauce is something we’d rather avoid, and the service lackluster, we’re not opposed to returning.

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