Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Roost & Roast: Local chef returns home with Thai eatery


The warm aroma of Thai basil fills the room, accompanied by the lively chatter of staff and the loud crackling of oil. Minimalistic white walls and simple decor contrast with the fiery cooking in Roost and Roast, one of the newest restaurants in the ever-popular Town and Country shopping center.

After an extended stay in Thailand, owner Brandon Poon, a Henry M. Gunn High School alumnus, was inspired by the country’s street food and unique flavors, opening Roost and Roast in June. Poon said his mission was to bring the essence of Thai street food to Palo Alto. 

“The idea was to bring fried chicken but in the Thai style because…you can easily find Korean fried chicken, southern fried chicken, chicken karaage, but no one does Thai style fried chicken,” Poon said. “We marinate [our chicken] for 24 hours, dredge it, then put it in the fridge for 24 hours. It dries out and then it goes into a wet batter then we fry.”

Along with its food, Roost and Roast’s location and lack of seating allude to its street food inspiration.

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“The small space, takeout only, resembles that food stall type of atmosphere versus a full restaurant,” Poon said.

Poon’s passion for quality cooking is in his blood. As a kid, Poon worked in his family’s restaurants and learned to cook with a wok at the age of 13. While he said he was not initially passionate about the culinary arts, his love for food grew as he grew older. Poon said reflecting on his family’s ties to the kitchen eventually motivated him to pursue cooking full time.

I figured it’d be nice to come full circle and serve my community.

— Brandon Poon, owner of Roost and Roast

“You don’t realize how much sacrifice your parents made opening restaurants just to provide for their family — all the long hours — and that’s what really brought me back into it [the restaurant industry],” Poon said.

This renewed passion led Poon on a journey through various sectors of the food industry. After attending culinary school, Poon bounced around from working at Michelin-starred restaurants like Madera, to running pop-ups, to doing culinary operations with the 49ers and Giants and eventually owning and operating his own restaurants. After being forced to close one of his longtime restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic, Poon shifted his focus to opening Roost and Roast.

“[In] the hospitality industry, nothing lasts forever,” Poon said. “I figured this is just a starting over again.”

This new chapter of Poon’s restaurant story brings him back to his roots.

“I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant in Palo Alto because I grew up here and I figured it’d be nice to come full circle and serve my community,” said Poon.

Inspired by his journey through the culinary world and dedication to bringing Thai flavors to Palo Alto, Verde sampled his dishes.

Popcorn Chicken ($8)

The light crunchy batter hides a soft and juicy interior, packed with the flavor of Thai basil. Bits of fried batter add even more crunch while giving variety to piece sizes. The accompanying sweet and spicy sauce is the perfect match for the chicken — packed full of tangy flavor without overpowering heat.

Photo: Jerry Fang

Hat Yai Fried Chicken ($14)

Served with rice, cucumber slices, a lime wedge, fried basil leaves and sweet and spicy sauce, this colorful dish differentiates itself from the popcorn chicken by providing a much more meaty bite. The fatty and tender meat of the bone-in chicken contrasts the incredibly crispy exterior, which produces a satisfying crunch.

Video: Annum Hashmi

Roti & Curry ($8)

Soft and flaky, these flatbreads are served very hot along with a creamy orange coconut curry. When enjoyed on its own, the roti is delicious with its slightly sweet dough, but when dipped, it becomes irresistible.

Video: Annum Hashmi

Pad Thai Noodles ($14)

Adorned with crushed peanuts, scallions, bean sprouts and lime wedges, this dish combines the chewiness from rice noodles with the softness of tofu and bright flavors from a sweet chili sauce. On top, the peanuts and assorted vegetables tie the whole dish together by providing variety to the texture.

Video: Annum Hashmi

Thai Iced Tea ($4)

A classic Thai beverage, known for its distinctive bright orange hue, this refreshing drink is luscious and creamy — full of flavor from the black tea base and various Asian spices like star anise and cardamom.

Photo: Sebastian Bonnard