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Another Back-A-Yard rave (Menlo park Caribbean)

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  • Porthos May 20, 2006 07:53 PM
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This Menlo Park restaurant is a gem and a must for anyone looking for Caribbean food. After my first visit a week ago, I couldn't stop thinking about the jerked chicken.

I returned and got the Jerked Chicken dinner ($8.95) with a side order of the oxtail ($5 extra). The dinner portions are substantial but I like o The chicken was redolent with island spices and had just enough heat to make your mouth tingle but not burn. The oxtail was dark, rich, flavorful, and falling off the bone. For a side order I got a total of 5 pieces (3 large, 1 medium, 1 small). The dinners are served with a side of rice and beans, fried sweet plantains, and salad. Last time, I had the Coco bread and the meat patty which was all very good. I need to try the Ackee with Saltfish next time but I don't know if I can give up that addictive jerked chicken.

Link: http://www.backayard.net/

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  1. Four of us went to Back-A-Yard for the first time this weekend and were pleasantly surprised that everything we ordered was so delicious! We enjoyed the jerk chicken, oxtail, meat patty, cream of chicken soup and corn festivals.

    The jerk chicken was a tad bit dry, but had the best flavoring of any jamaican restaurant in the area. Oxtail was cooked until tender perfection, easily falling off the bone. Corn festivals remind me of a less greasy version of the chinese fried donut, except a tad bit sweeter from the corn. you can also see small flecks of cornmeal, which provide an interesting slight crunch as you chew. The star of the dinner was the meat patty, which came out piping hot. we did not know what to expect when we ordered, but it's wonderfully spiced ground meat wrapped in a pastry like dough.

    2 Replies
    1. re: huckleberry

      I've only been twice but I thought the chicken was quite tender and moist. I got the leg quarters though and didn't pay the $1 for white meat. Was the white meat dry or the leg quarter? I agree that the jerk spice is very authentic and as good as I've had it in the Caymans. I look forward to trying the corn festivals and the Johnny Cakes (available on the catering menu).

      1. re: Porthos

        I liked the jerk pork better than the chicken.

    2. A note on the greens.

      We dressed for dinner the other night and went to Back A Yard. We had old favorites -- the delectable jerk pork, which has the most complex jerk flavor either of us has tasted, just going on and on with different spices; fried catfish, in a pleasantly sweet and rough cornmeal batter -- cold the next morning, it was a little like a catfish corn dog; the beans and rice and lovely plantains and forgettable salad that come with the pork. And we added four corn festivals, which are essentially cornmeal amorphous doughnuts, full of energy, but delicious.

      The star, in a way, was the dish of chopped collard greens. It was practically a pickle. The flavor of vinegar dominated almost completely, even on top of the generous spicing and the bitterness of the greens. One of us thought it was like sucking on a lemon, but I thought it was an excellent foil to the oil in the fried foods and the sweetness in the plantains, pork, and festivals.

      1. Oh, this place has excellent meat. Both the jerk chicken (leg/thigh) and jerk pork were delicious and perfectly cooked. The pork had a pink blush to it; is it smoked? The ribs were very tender and lightly sauced. Neither dinner actually needed the extra sauce supplied on the side.

        The rice/beans (dirty rice) had an intriguing hint of spice, and unlike most Caribbean restaurants, the plantains were not oily. The fries, cole slaw, and bun served with the ribs were boring. Perhaps they would substitute?

        Cornbread had run out, and the chef substituted the "festivals," telling us they were somewhat like beignets. Unfortunately, while these smelled terrific, they got hard rather quickly. We should have eaten them in the car!

        Sweet potato pudding also had run out, so we tried the Black Cake. Like a cross between holiday fruit cake and bread pudding, with a very moist texture and strong raisin flavor, a little goes a long way.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Jefferson

          I don't think the jerk is primarily smoked. But your color observation is a good one. The menu says "cooked over open flames." From the taste I'd say it gets more than a fair amount of smoke during grilling, probably with the lid of the grill down or a cover directly over the meat. Call it quasi-smoked.

          Of course now I have to go back to see.

          G

          1. re: Gerard

            The chef has described his method as "grilling" to me, yet the cover down as you describe is probably part of it. It is what makes his jerk distinctive around here as other places bake rather than grill.

          2. re: Jefferson

            The meat is excellent. But don't be afraid to try the vegetarian dishes. The jerk tofu is delicious, and the vegetarian version of the patty is as well. I'm not a fan of the sweet potato pudding, preferring the black cake.

          3. I, too, must add my rave about this place. It really is absolutely fantastic. AND, i can't believe the quantity of food and associated pricing. We had the jerk chicken dinners which really is WAY too much for one person. Corn festivals are unbelievable but must state that they should be consumed while hot – even if it means eating them in the car... which I did! The jerk chicken was well spiced and falling off the bone. IMHO, asking for the white meat only is setting oneself up for not really experiencing the real beauty of this meal. Oxtails, as mentioned several times already, were really outstanding with the meat also falling off the bone. BTW, the oxtails are not listed on the menu and I thank the Chowhounds who uncovered them first as they are a real find. I really wanted the black cake for dessert but it had JUST come out of the oven and needs another 24hours before it is ready (which means today – Thursday – it is ready for consumption!) We ended up with the sweet potato pudding, which was really delicious as well.

            Can’t wait to try the Thursday special – Curried Goat next time!

            1 Reply
            1. re: nutmeg

              My husband (David Sloo) and I have become huge fans of Back-A-Yard's curries. We've had the curried goat and the curried chicken and they were both fantastic.

            2. Is this a take-out only place?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Mick Ruthven

                Most of the business is take-out, ordered at the counter. But there are a small number of tables and chairs for eating in.

                Edited to add: last time I was there, the menu still included ribs and fried fish. However, these are a holdover from the previous tenant and to satisfy those old customers. My impression is that these are not the strong suit here.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  While it's true that the jerk (esp. the pork!) and the oxtails are super stars, the BBQ ribs are nothing to sneeze at -- good flavor, and very tender (it comes sauced, so get it on the side if that's your style). They have a side-order "lunch" size with 3 bones that's a good way to test without sacrificing a serving of jerk..

                  Anyone tried the jerked salmon?

                  1. re: jkg

                    I tried the salmon. The spices didn't seem to penetrate the "meat" the way they do with the pork and chicken. A little more like a Cajun "blackened" preparation, perhaps. They're all good, but I prefer the pork and chicken. Like the ribs, too. The goat curry was tasty, but required a lot of careful work with all those bones. :-)

                    Incidentally, the sweet potato pudding reminded me of a very dense and oddly dry bread pudding. If you microwave it for 10-15 seconds, though, it loosens up considerably. Ovens vary, blah blah blah. Just don't burn yourself!

                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                    Have you tried the fried catfish? I have to confess it's the only fish I've had at Back-A-Yard, mainly because it's up there with some of the best fried catfish I've ever eaten. There's something about the spices in the breading that works perfectly with the catfish flavor, and the texture of the breading is consistently good.