Owner Brandon Poon’s family starts fresh after COVID closed their longtime restaurant.
The Peninsula has a new Thai-inspired chicken destination with Roost & Roast.
“I figured in the Bay Area, you have your hot chicken, you have your Korean fried chicken, your Japanese fried chicken — but there was no Thai fried chicken,” owner Brandon Poon says.
Roost & Roast aims to change that. It opened in Palo Alto earlier this month, featuring hat yai fried chicken. Available as a meal with sides or à la carte, the batter’s made with potato starch, resulting in a texture that’s airy and crispy. BBQ and popcorn chicken are also on the menu.
While chicken is the claim to fame, Roost & Roast also serves up egg-topped pad krawpow, stir-frying basil with chicken, pork or tofu, as well as pad thai, fried rice, salads and roti.
“Here we try to do things traditional,” Poon says. “We still use a mortar and pestle, palm sugar and coriander. We do a lot of things by hand.”
Inspiration for the menu was planted while trying street food during a family trip a couple of years ago. Poon’s family went to Thailand to visit the hometown Poon’s mother had immigrated to from Cambodia.
“The recipes are developed by my mom, to showcase her cooking,” Poon says. “She’s cooking for the family, versus us (now) cooking for the masses.”
Ramping up is not without its challenges. Poon says it’s “back to square one,” even as seasoned restaurateurs who’ve been in the Peninsula hospitality industry for decades.
“We built a successful business in the past. It’s a new set of challenges, but it’s doable.”
In Mountain View, Poon previously had Buffalo, a burger bar. His parents ran Express 7, a “ma-and-pa Chinese restaurant” that Poon later rebranded as Srasa Kitchen, a fast-casual Asian eatery.
They were at that location for 17 years before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted them to refocus their business model.
Sales they counted on from tech companies dropped precipitously. They received a small amount of funding from government relief in the early days, but “it wasn’t quite enough for us — we still had to walk away. But I think that’s a given. I really don’t know what they can do to help,” Poon says.
Rather than serving 700 customers a day as they did pre-pandemic, the family business now serves about 100. Starting out new, that’s to be expected, Poon says.
“It’s just learning to start over again that’s the biggest challenge … This is our attempt to come back.”
They’re finding a flow. Some days the food sells out, and others there’s a minimal number of customers. Hiring is especially difficult as the restaurant industry faces a labor shortage.
“Right now it’s just hard to find staff. It is a true family business. I’m working, my father’s working, my mom’s working,” Poon says. “It’s a true small business going on right now while we try to figure everything out.”
They’re doing so close to home. Roost & Roast’s arrival in Palo Alto marks a homecoming for the Gunn High School grad and his family.
“We grew up in Palo Alto,” Poon says. “It’s nice to finally have a business in the area where we grew up.”
Roost & Roast // Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real Suite 161, Palo Alto; 650.485.2395
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