An Epic Birthday Week – Episode IX

On Day 9, CS was busy but Nancy was able to get out of work early so Lily and I made our way out to meet her for lunch at her favorite Caribbean restaurant in a slummy area of East Palo Alto. This place was seriously in the ghetto. To give you some idea, as we walked from the car to the restaurant, we passed a little alley where I saw two young children chasing a chicken around. I guess that’s what kids have to play with when they don’t have toys in the barrio!

But it was daylight out so it didn’t feel dangerous, and I know Nancy knows good food so if she said Back A Yard restaurant was worth the journey into the hood, I knew I was in for a real treat. In fact, this combo of jerk chicken and ox tails turned out to be perhaps one of the greatest plates of simple honest food I’ve ever had:

Back A Yard Chicken and Ox Tails

I know it doesn’t look like much, but trust me, you would love it. Ok, maybe the salad was a throw away, but everything else on that plate was pure heaven. The jerk seasoning on the chicken was better than the best barbecue you could ever imagine. The ox tail was deeply flavored and cooked so long that the even the little caps of cartilage around each bone would melt on the tongue. The rice and beans were moist and actually had flavor. So often rice and beans are under-seasoned, dry or otherwise lackluster, but not at Back A Yard. Somebody cooked all this stuff with real love. And those plantains were just killer. Sweet with just the right amount of caramelization to them. This for me was the pinnacle of Caribbean food. I don’t know how it could possibly have been any better. I left there extremely happy.

After lunch, Lily and I went to… you guessed it, Philz Coffee again. This time we checked out the Palo Alto branch. Yes, my trip was only 10 days long, but I managed to visit 3 out of the 6 Philz Coffee locations. This one had a much crunchier feel to it, not the modern coffee shop feel of the other two. It also had a quaint little outdoor seating area where I enjoyed my Jacob’s Wonderbar Brew while Lily tried their yummy Turkish blend which was fragrant with cardamom.

From there we returned home to bring CS the takeout we got from Back A Yard. He started eating it thinking he would just have a few bites before we headed out to a wine bar, but it was so good he couldn’t help himself and just decided to eat the whole thing!

We hit two wine bars that day, the first being Tessora’s located in The Pruneyard shopping plaza. There was nice outdoor seating and we had a bottle of wine and some apps there before heading off to the second place, Cin Cin which Mat had recommended. I opened the wine list there and what did I see? Why, it was our new friend the Martella Petite Sirah we had tried at One Market a week ago! This one was a 2004 vintage but tasted pretty much the same, i.e. fantastic. We also tried Cin Cin’s remarkable chicken liver crostini which brilliantly were made with currants and dried apricot. So good.

From there it was time to move onto dinner at Dio Deka, a Greek restaurant also in Los Gatos. We got a couple bottles of Turley Zin and enjoyed what was probably the finest example of upscale Greek food I’ve ever had. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever even seen foie gras at any other Greek restaurant like it was here on this foie gras and scallop dish:

Dio Deka foie and scallops

When you see nice touches like the hearts of palm on the plate you know these guys are trying to take things to another level. Superb. But Greek food to me is measured by the quality of their seafood, and Dio Deka proves their worth with this offering of a fish I believe is called Mero:

Dio Deka Mero

It was hearty like a black cod or chilean sea bass but not as cloyingly oily. Paired with that dill lemon butter sauce, it was very refined but still had the unmistakable flavors of Greece. Dio Deka was the only fancy place I ate at during the entire trip, and it was an excellent choice for the splurge.

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