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Coconuts, Palo Alto

Does anyone have any info on this restaurant? Evidently it took the place of Hukilau; while Dan Pitt's site referred to it as "Hukilau Hawaiian-style Caribbean" (?), the menu looks quite Jamaican -- and the chef appears to be the same guy who runs Back-A-Yard in Menlo Park.

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    1. (Trying to make it actually link the place I created earlier...)

      642 Ramona Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      1. While I'm talking to myself here, I ended up going to Coconuts for dinner tonight with friends. It *is* the chef from Back-A-Yard; the manager I talked to briefly said they "stole him" away, although it sounded like he was pretty willing to be stolen: it's a much bigger, nicer space with a full bar.

        I had the jerk chicken dinner, which was awfully reminiscent of what I'd had at BAY, not surprisingly, including the coconut rice. The grilled vegetable side was new, I think, and just as good as everything else. They asked if I wanted the jerk mild or spicy; I had spicy ("mild jerk" are two words that just shouldn't go together), and it definitely had a kick but it wasn't daredevil stunt seasoning. I think I liked the jerk a little more here than what I remember at BAY, actually. The presentation was nicer, and at $13.50, the price was still reasonable.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chipotle

          Has Back-a-Yard closed? Chef Robert was the owner and not just the cook.

        2. Coconuts came up in Restaurant Roulette last week, and it got a split review among our diners.

          I can't say as to whether they have the chef from BAY. My favorite dish at BAY is the pork jerk, which they don't have at Coconuts. The jerk itself does have quite a bit of similarity - tasty, not hot.

          My GF got a tasty rum drink, she said it improved her perception of the food. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

          I got a coconut shrimp dish, and it was only OK. The coconut tastes didn't bounce forward, the shrimp was fresh enough but not *fresh*.

          We shared the appetizer platter, and there were good tasty bits there. I thought the jerk was the most tasty thing on the plate, dunked everything possible in it. I would only recommend getting the jerk dishes.

          We'll def. go back a few more times. It's a winning combination of a place. Probably on friday and saturday nights when everything else is crowded.

          The place is certainly more upscale than BAY, but that's not saying much. It's nice that there are open seats, and it's open past 8pm, and there's a parking lot across the street, but I'll give a substantial food edge to BAY.

          1. We just stopped by here this evening for dinner with husband and two kids. Overall, thumbs up from us.

            I had the curried shrimp, which was served with steamed rice and a mango "chutney" that they described as a salsa. Flavorful, mild in spice - I would have enjoyed more, but I like very spicey food. Also came with fried plantains, which were OK, not great, but any plantain is good in my book.

            Husband had the oxtail, which he really enjoyed. Rich gravy. Served with red beans and rice, veggies and plantains. He very much enjoyed it, and is looking forward to exploring more of the menu.

            One son had mac and cheese and red beans and rice - guess he is carbo loading after an active day! He ate about half the mac and cheese before declaring it weird. Husband said it was very good, but had a distinctive cheese in it. Red beans and rice are better as a side with a meat than on their own, but son still ate it. He ate quite a bit of his brothers chicken.

            Other son had plain grilled chicken (special order due to allergy), red beans and rice, plantains and veggies. He liked it all. I think they must have originally sent out jerk, because our meal took a really long time to come out. But they only charged us for a side of jerk chicken instead of an entire meal.

            Service was very nice, and they dealt well with our allergy. Our options were rather limited, but there were good things to choose from. We are definitely going back to explore more of the menu. I am not an expert on Carribean food, it hit the spot tonight.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jsaimd

              Thanks for finding this! Back-A-Yard is too small and too far away to entice us to go, but Coconuts takes reservations and is closer to us. We finally got around to trying it tonight.

              Our curried shrimp and curried goat entrees were excellent and very reminiscent of some of the best versions of these dishes that we've had in the Caribbean. The jerk wings were nicely done. I saw that jerk pork is available as an appetizer; we'll try that another time. It's been ages since I've seen corn festivals on a menu (a fried dough variant with corn) and these were excellent, again reminiscent of the best versions of this that we've had. There was no room for dessert after all this - next time we'll just get entrees so we have a chance at trying some.

              We'll be back!


            2. So does anyone have any more info on the status of Back A Yard?

              The website is still up with no indication it closed.Is Chef Robert doing double duty and maybe trained someone to do the cooking at BAY?

              Or did he sell it?

              Has anyone been to both places and can compare the food?

              4 Replies
              1. re: rworange

                The lights are on at BAY every time I drive by, so they're not closed. The fact that they close early often prevents me from getting over. Will drop by and report.

                I think the BAY food is more flavorful, and they have the pork jerk which is my favorite dish and not served at Coconuts.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  Had lunch at BAY yesterday, seems as good as ever. I don't recognize the owner, so don't know who is running what. The specials list was about like usual, so they don't seem to be slacking.

                2. re: rworange

                  See my comment above in response to Melanie's similar question. The Metroactive review I posted says the chef is just opening a second restaurant. As long as the recipes are the same, I don't really see Back-A-Yard being hurt, and since Coconuts doesn't have a full jerk pork plate, I'm likely to go both places (with my limited eating out budget).

                  1. re: P. Punko

                    Thanks. If you check the website under 'News & Events" there is a 15% off coupon until Nov 30, 2008

                    Also on that page "We have a full bar with our master mixologist, William, formerly of the Ritz Carlton, St Thomas. Try his famous concoctions, “Kiwi Coladas”, "Painkiller” & “Banana Boat”."

                    There's live music and a happy hour.

                3. We went back again on Friday and had another fantastic meal. So far everything we have tried on the menu has been a real winner. This time we started with the codfish fritters, followed by the oxtail and barbecued ribs entrees. This brought us three side dishes we did not have last time - the red beans and rice, baked beans, and corn muffins - and all were as wonderful as the main courses. Once again, everything was spot-on in terms of reminding us how food tasted on our Caribbean vacations. They were out of my Zinfandel and Samuel Adams Winter Lager draft choices for drinks, but the Cabernet went nicely with the oxtail and the Pinot Noir matched well with the ribs.

                  We took leftovers home so we could sample the sweet potato pudding dessert, and that was an excellent decision. Sort of like a sweet potato flan, accompanied by rum-soaked raisins. It was a decadent finish to a wonderful meal.

                  The place was reasonably busy on a Friday night, but they could use more business. This is great winter comfort food and one of the best restaurants in Palo Alto. Highly recommended!


                  1. My brother and I stopped here for a quick dinner on January 15. I'd been a big fan of Chef Robert at Back-A-Yard and was looking forward to trying his new place with more comfortable digs. This was quite a let-down. William said his previous visit was much better.

                    We had the mixed appetizer plate. While the jerk chicken wings were great, everything else tasted warmed over. The codfish fritters were mostly filler and had little taste of salt cod, and the patties were not good at all. The accompanying sauces were out of balance.

                    Both of us have enjoyed the jerk tofu at BAY, and Wm has ordered it here. This time, the tofu had little flavor from the marinade, no grill nuance, and was cold in the middle. Yuck.

                    What's going on?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Melanie, your report is very close to my recent experience at Coconuts ...


                      1. re: osho

                        Thanks, I meant to link to it. Reading your report prompted mine. I didn't take the time to peek into the kitchen to see who was cooking. Maybe it varies by shift. Chef Robert is very talented, maybe I need to return to BAY for lunch.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          My last dinner at Coconuts was just a few days before Melanie's dinner and was as great as previous meals. I am confused about the "quick dinner" part though, as Coconuts service has always been authentically leisurely on my visits. I've only been on Friday and Saturday nights; both problematic visits have been at other times and generally ordering other dishes.


                          1. re: mdg

                            We were there on the early side (before 6:30pm) after failing to get seats in the bar at Mantra for happy hour. The theory was that ordering the apps would be a quick start, and one shared main should be fast, and it was when the restaurant only had a couple other customers. After this experience, I'd say the appetizer platter is a no-go. The tofu was executed better on an earlier visit, so there's inconsistency problem there too. The key might be to go on Friday or Saturday.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I really didnt want to portray anything overtly negative, but this is not a place I would actually venture to on specific nights.

                              I have been to the Caribbean several times and I did not find the food even remotely close to the plethora of flavours found in that part of the world.

                              The closest 'authentic' Caribbean (Trini) food in the Bay Area was at Penny's Caribbean Cafe - alas now shuttered ...

                              1. re: osho

                                We went back again last Friday and finally tried the jerk chicken. It is indeed the least impressive dish that we have had there - tasty, but a bit overcooked for my preference - and we've made our way through a large portion of the menu (not the jerk tofu though). The oxtails were just as scrumptious as before.

                                We're also working our way through the side dishes, and a highlight of this meal was the bammy - a real yummy, perfectly fried yucca cake. Like most perfectly fried food, it's best right when it comes to the table, but still is good after cooling down a bit. The festivals are another really great dish to be found in this corner of the menu.

                                The place was also busier than I've ever seen it, which is good news. This remains one of our favorite places in Palo Alto, but like any restaurant there are some dishes that are better than others.