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Birds of a feather: Family's Thai fried chicken eatery roosts in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Jul 1, 2021
by Sara Hayden

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's hat yai fried chicken is made with potato starch batter, resulting in an airy, crispy texture. The restaurant opened in Palo Alto in June. The recipes are developed by owner Brandon Poon's mother. (Image courtesy of Roost & Roast.)

Roost & Roast aims to change that. It opened in Palo Alto in June, featuring hat yai fried chicken. Available as a meal with sides or a 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.

Roost & Roast's pad krapow with tofu, stir-fried with basil and topped with an egg. It's also available with chicken or pork. Owner Brandon Poon says the new family-run restaurant is an "attempt to come back" after they had to close their longstanding business in Mountain View due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image courtesy of Roost & Roast.)

"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.

Roost & Roast's pineapple fried rice. Owner Brandon Poon first found inspiration for his family's latest restaurant concept during a family trip to Thailand. (Image courtesy of Roost & Roast.)

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.

Roost & Roast's popcorn fried chicken. Because of the pandemic, owner Brandon Poon's family moved their business focus from serving companies in Mountain View to serving the community in Palo Alto, where Poon grew up. (Image courtesy of Roost & Roast.)

"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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