March's Can't-Miss Dish

Jerk Roasted Duck at Comfort Kitchen
Credit: Chris McIntosh
By Ellen Bhang · 03/01/2023

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 


Jerk Roasted Duck at Comfort Kitchen


On the plate: Jerk Roasted Duck  

Where to find it: When it comes to celebrating big ideas, no one does it more deliciously than the team at Comfort Kitchen, now open in Dorchester. “Our whole menu is built around the African diaspora and South Asian spice trade routes,” says chef-partner Kwasi Kwaa, featuring ingredients and cooking methods that traveled between Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, and Asia. He wants every plate to tell a story about people who applied their cultural knowledge to food—and transformed how much of the world eats today.

If you’re familiar with Kwaa and his business partner Biplaw Rai, you know that these restaurant veterans have been honing their global comfort food concept since 2015, when they began collaborating on pop-up events throughout the Boston area. In January, Kwaa and Rai, together with their partners, Rita Ferreira and Nyacko Pearl Perry, opened the doors of their long-anticipated brick-and-mortar in Upham’s Corner. Housed in a renovated Spanish colonial-style building that once served as a rest stop for Boston’s early 20th-century streetcar system, Comfort Kitchen operates as a cafe during the day, and transforms into a fine-dining destination at night. Kwaa is delighted to be in Dorchester. “Our location pushes us to be as diverse as we possibly can be, so that all will feel welcome,” he says.

Comfort Kitchen’s stylishly modern space—done in a creamy color palette with subtle neon accents—feels lively and welcoming. During dinner service, a bartender shakes up drinks at a counter with a view to the bustling kitchen, while guests tuck into plates like seared okra with masala-spiced yogurt and West African chicken stew. One delicious dish, rooted in the foodways of Jamaica, has a fascinating story to tell.

Notes on the nosh: Jerk Roasted Duck showcases a burnished thigh-and-drumstick portion of the rich poultry, nestled on a bed of coconut milk-enriched, kidney bean-studded basmati rice. Pikliz, a crunchy Haitian pickled condiment; tender mâche greens; and a bright green drizzle of parsley oil round out the enticing presentation.

Jamaica’s Maroons, descendants of Africans who escaped enslavement, refined the method of “jerking,” an approach to preserving meat using salt, spices, and pit-smoking—techniques that they themselves learned from the island’s indigenous Taíno. To adapt jerk for a fine-dining context, Kwaa and chef de cuisine Shelley Nason marinate the duck in an aromatic slurry that includes allspice pods (roasted and ground in-house) plus Scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, and tamari. Then it’s cooked low-and-slow in its own fat, rendering the meat fork-tender, before being crisped in the oven just prior to serving. Kwaa is quick to reassure guests that Comfort Kitchen’s version of jerk is flavorful, not searingly hot with chili-peppers. “I’m always gearing toward ‘flavorful spicy,’ where you can taste all of the notes,” he says.

Sip alongside: Flavorful ingredients also enhance a food-friendly cocktail called Sumac Sour. Beverage director Kyisha Davenport—the founder of BarNoirBoston, a collective of Black beverage professionals, and the former bar director of now-shuttered Tanám—curates Comfort Kitchen’s list, which features beer and wine brands made by producers of color, as well as a tantalizing array of “Free-Spirited” (non-alcoholic) libations. 

“So much of the menu comes about through community exchanges and conversations,” Davenport says, including the creation of the Sumac Sour. Back in 2021, when she served as cocktail contributor to Edible Boston, she invited industry colleagues to talk about their favorite spices. Biplaw Rai nominated timur pepper, essential to Himalayan cuisine, while bartender Tersillia Valentini suggested sumac, the tangy, pink-hued berry that’s a favorite of foragers throughout the world. 

Davenport infused Rhode Island-made gin with the timur pepper, and blended the sumac into syrup. Shaken with lemon juice and egg whites, both concoctions lend bright, nuanced flavors to the Sumac Sour, a cocktail that’s excellent with jerk duck—as well as every other dish on Comfort Kitchen’s world tour of a menu.

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