Hounds Melanie and Peter posted earlier about Back A Yard (see link to their postings). Here are some details about the food available and the quality.
Back A Yard is a newish Jamaican grill just east of 101 on Willow Rd in Menlo Park. Nowhere could be more convenient for takeout for Dumbarton Bridge commuters.
Robert Simpson, the chef, is described in the take-out menu as having learned to cook in Jamaica and Belgium. It is hard to imagine two more sophisticated culinary societies, so my hopes were high.
The menu divides into four essential sections: jerk, barbecue, fried seafood, and the special.
Straight off: the jerk pork is probably the best I have had. It is not particularly hot -- I like my jerk spicing much hotter ordinarily -- but it has a depth of flavor that is one of the features of fine Jamaican cooking. When eating a good Jamaican dish, it feels like you are peeling off different layers of spice -- sweet nutmeg, gamey cumin, searing scotch bonnet chillies.
Fortunately, it's not just the jerk that's worth eating. Red beans and rice are cooked to the point where the rice and (red) beans are equally tender -- sort of the opposite of Badian peas-and-rice, where the beans and rice share flavor, but contrast in texture.
Back A Yard's fried plantains are sweeter than I usually expect here, but each piece was evenly cooked and non-greasy. If it's any testament, I put an order in a box into my fridge overnight, and it was entirely gone in the morning. (Small household, too.)
I also had the special: oxtail with rice and beans, mac and cheese, and a forgettable salad. The slices of beef tail were well spiced (mild, but interesting) and cooked to the point where the muscle pulls back from the bone -- and from the other parts that are so important in oxtail. Braised or grilled oxtail is a challenging dish: most people use these parts for soup, since the gelatine-producing tissues and flavor are so concentrated in the tail, as in a foot. But Back A Yard pulls off a reasonable dry oxtail, with three meaty pieces.
Macaroni and cheese is slightly sweet, with a measured onion flavor. It rated well among my opinionated staff (we have a macaroni and cheese scorecard on the fridge). Not mushy, but also maybe not cheesy enough.
Coco bread is warm and fat and filling, and worth dipping in the jerk sauce.
Jerk pork, chicken, salmon, and combination meals run $7.50 - $12.25, two sides. Barbecue and seafood meals run $8.50 - $11.95, two sides.
Specials listed on the menu: oxtails (daily), stew peas (Wed), curry goat (Thu), escovitch fish with bammy (Fri), curry chicken (Sat), ackee and saltfish (Sun).
Back A Yard, Caribbean American Grill, 1189 Willow, Menlo Park. 650 323 4244.