The Backdoor Kitchen is difficult to find, tucked in the rear of an industrial cul-de-sac away from the water in the town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, but it is worth making the effort to find it. Situated in a repurposed tree nursery, the inside and outside dining spaces are comfortable and the staff is friendly and efficient. We were told that reservations were required, but we found the restaurant only half-full on a Sunday evening in May.
Telephone: (360) 378-9540
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Rostra rating: 3.5
Scallops in a beure blanc sauce were perfectly cooked while the accompanying rice cakes acted like sponges for the sauce. Unfortnately the scallops were not properly cleaned. Each one of us had grit in our scallops, which is inexcusable.
Asian-style pork meatballs were soft and flavorful. The masa dish turned out to be Mexican polenta. The melted cheese and aioli extended the dish’s flavor profile while unusual pickles provided heat and acid—a very nice starter.
Soy sesame glazed cod was the best piece of fish I have eaten in a long time. The pan-fried fish reminded me how versatile and succulent cod can be when properly cooked. The accompanying bok choy, broccoli rabe,and shiitake mushrooms were excellent. The sushi rice, however, was superfluous. Why serve sushi rice with anything but sushi? Another rice prep would have been better, maybe seafood fried rice?
The universally acclaimed coconut cream pie did not quite live up to its reputation. The custard was light but rich, however, Patti declared the graham cracker crust a “provocation”.
Bottom Line: Backdoor Kitchen is the best restaurant we tried on San Juan Island, but still flawed. We may be pampered by Portland, but the San Juan Islands in general seem to suffer from the “diners are dollars-on-legs syndrome” common to many seasonal destinations. Customers are basically one-time sales so why raise standards above a universal level of mediocrity that is nonetheless highly profitable?