by Heather McPherson
I like a bio that is short and to the point: “King Cajun Crawfish of Orlando was founded in 2010 via New Orleans via Vietnam.”
That’s what visitors to kingcajuncrawfish.com will find when they click on the “Our Story” tab.
In the heart of the Asian district, the flavors and textures of New Orleans cookery are ringing true in this nine table hole-in-the-wall.
Owner Ha Nguyen had lived in Louisiana and knew the cuisine well. The opportunity to do something different in the Mills 50 district near downtown Orlando intrigued her.
We started with a pound of freshly boiled live crawfish ($6.99) tossed in a kicky lemon pepper sauce. Diners have a choice of plain, mild, medium, hot, lemon pepper, rajun Cajun, garlic butter or sha bang, which doesn’t translate to quite as hot on the palate as the name sounds.
One of my dining companions was a crawfish-peeling virgin. With a little instruction, he soon got the hang of twisting the head, sucking out the salty-spicy juices and then finding the zipper spot on the tail to release the sweet, tender shellfish meat. Heaven.
My colleague wore his splattered shirt back to office proudly. After all, it is a great culinary rite of passage. (Hint for neophytes: Open the shells into the large bowl provided, then pull away with the meat.)
We moved on to the Po boy special ($6.95) that included a half a sandwich, soft drink and fries. The fresh-baked roll was stuffed with plump golden fried shrimp and was dressed with lettuce, tomato, thin-sliced pickles and mayonnaise. And the fries were fresh-from-the-oil good with that crunchy-tender texture potato sticks should have. The catfish lunch ($6.95) includes two large pieces of lightly breaded fillets and a side of potato salad. The fish flaked nicely while still maintaining the sweet juices.
The gumbo ($3.95 for a small bowl) was jam-packed with okra, chicken, shrimp, sausage, celery, white rice and onion. And the broth had undertones of a nicely spiced, slow-cooked roux. The jambalaya ($3.95 for a small bowl) had similar elements in a rich tomato sauce. Both were spot-on interpretations for this Jazz Fest and Big Easy regular.
King Cajun Crawfish is unpretentious, comfortable and without many frills, but it has a heart as big as Lake Pontchartrain.
Service is friendly and sincere, which makes waiting for the food to emerge from the narrow slip of a kitchen easy to take. Be patient. Sandwich and entrée orders dribble out one by one, but they are worth the wait. With the exception of the slow-simmered pots of jambalaya and gumbo, everything is made fresh to order, and that is all too often a rarity.
For many, little King Cajun Crawfish will begin to fill the big void left when Jockamo’s on Sand Lake Road closed a few years back. And our server said the King Cajun menu is still evolving, which means this new kid on the block could eventually have the scope of Jockamo’s. My hopes are on an authentic muffuletta, the round Sicilian submarine-style sandwiches made famous at New Orleans’ Central Grocery on Decatur Street https://www.locksmithspros.com/commercial.
A girl can dream.
See for yourself
King Cajun Crawfish
Where: 914 N. Mills Ave., Orlando (between Weber and Marks Streets)
When: 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 12:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday
How much: $3.95-$11.95, boiled shellfish at market price
Credit: Visa, MasterCard
Beverages: Beer, soft drinks
Noise level: Quiet to light conversation buzz
Wheelchair access: Tight turns, but tables can be moved.
Read the entire review here: Orlando Sentinel: “King Cajun Crawfish: Taste of the Big Easy”