Dive-ing for Decent Shrimp at Knock Kneed Lobster and King's Fish House

Phoenix isn't exactly the first place I think of when I want fresh fish. But there's one fish dish that's I've found to be consistently decent here, perhaps owing to the fact that it's deep-fried: popcorn shrimp. It's a great little starter, the perfect appetizer to kick off a good seafood meal (or make you forget the rest of a bad one).

For this week's Battle of the Dishes, we went in search of seafood joints known for their popcorn shrimp.

In One Corner: King's Fish House at the Tempe Marketplace
35 S. McClintock Dr. in Tempe

Not exactly a King-sized portion.

I'd been dying to try the California-based King's Fish House since it popped up at the Tempe Marketplace a couple of years ago. My significant other was put off by the fishy smell wafting 24/7 from the place, so I'd never made it there. But with the promise of something fried, I managed to drag him to King's for a cozy little date. 

​The place is larger than it looks on the outside, with a few separate dining rooms and little nooks crammed with gleaming dark wood furniture and cozy booths. There's a large dining porch covered in clear plastic for all-weather use, and decorative fish plaques on the walls, just in case you want to know what your dinner looks like au naturel. My sweetie and I settled into a small booth for two and ordered up the popcorn shrimp.

Apparently at King's, "shrimp" is more than just the type of meat you'll get -- it's a description of the size of the serving. A white platter tossed with a handful of battered and fried shrimp arrived at our table. The lemon wedge and cup of sauce took up most of the empty space on the plate, but for ten bucks we expected a little more food.

We hungrily dug into the fried nuggets. "It's buttery," remarked my date, "and the breading is good, but I could get this for a lot less at Long John Silver's." Ouch! He wasn't far off on the breading being similar to LJS, though the quality of the shrimp meat at King's is far superior. Even the smaller, lower grade beauties they use for popcorn shrimp.

The breading was a cross between panko bread crumbs and a hush puppy batter; crisp and golden, with a sweet undertone. The shrimp was fresh enough to avoid tasting of iodine or Swamp Thing. But there was a lack of the "zing" factor: no delicate spice blend or beer batter to propel this dish above standard pub grub quality. The zesty tartar sauce was the only saving grace. Well, that and the outstanding service. Our server was polite and efficient, and even the manager came over to check on us -- a formerly commonplace occurrence I haven't experienced in a while.

In the Other Corner: Knock Kneed Lobster
3202 E. Washington Street in Phoenix

My half of the shrimp & chips platter at Knock Kneed Lobster was as big as King's full portion.

Location Info

Knock Kneed Lobster

3202 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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Exactly! Please..basing a restaurant review/comparison based on one plate, and popcorn shrimp frozen out of the box at that?!!!

I've eaten at both restaurants several times. King's Fish House has been hit and miss. Sometimes it's been great (sand dabs, hot/cold seafood combos) and sometimes lacking (pecan crusted halibut served uncooked in the middle). Just be prepared to pay a fairly high tab...BTW, I have had their popcorn shrimp and it beats the heck out of Knock Kneed Lobster's frozen fresh out of the box popcorn shrimp. I like their cocktail sauce too...

Knock Kneed Lobster is also hit and miss. They can make some of the best fried fish you'll ever taste. Just depends on who's working the kitchen that day. Same with their cocktail sauce...it's really great when it's made well. Lately it seems they've gone cheap and have been watering it down quite a bit...it's sad...good way to make sure customer's wait a while before returning. They've also raised their prices somewhat excessivley...but they're still cheaper than King's. So, you might have to try them a few times to get a hit, but the fried fish when it's good is so worth it! And the zucchini and hush puppies too.

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