Two seasoned restaurateurs have added a personal touch to the Asian-inspired menus of their new Midpeninsula restaurants: At Nee Lau’s The Mandarin in Menlo Park, the menu consists of slow-cooked Asian fusion dishes, while Thai-style dishes are fried chicken is the star of Brandon Poon’s Roost & Roast in Palo Alto.
The pandemic may have accelerated Lau’s plans to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant, but when it comes to executing his vision at Mandarin in Menlo Park, it’s all about slowing down – some of the dishes meticulously Prepared from the restaurant can literally take days.
Lau said his eight treasure ducks, for example, must be ordered at least two days in advance. Preparation includes the delicate task of boning a duck and stuffing it with sticky sticky rice, peanuts, black mushrooms, dried shrimp, scallops and salted egg yolks, while ensuring that the skin remains intact. .
Tea-smoked duck should be brined for 72 hours, stewed and stewed, and finally dried and smoked.
Lau warns those who order the whole fish in a spicy bean sauce, which also requires a lot of preparation time and patience. The cod takes 30 minutes to simmer so the flavor can soak up to the bone, he explained.
“People say location, location, location, but to me it’s quality, quality, quality,” Lau said. “I would rather have a customer wait rather than rush a dish that is not yet perfectly cooked.”
At Mandarin, specialties like Eight Treasure Duck and Golden Crab sit alongside a mix of comfort foods like General Tso’s Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Rangoon Crab and … fortune cookies.
“Some people ask, ‘Why are you making fortune cookies? ” You know what ? People like it. And fortune cookies (are) something I love, “Lau said.” I want to do pan-Asian. “
Lau plans to eventually expand the menu to include more Cantonese and Japanese items that reflect the dishes he was exposed to when he grew up working in restaurants and traveling across China while working in the industry. of high technology.
In the kitchen, Lau brought in chef Rui Young, who was trained in China and specializes in Sichuan cuisine at Sichuan Home and Z&Y Restaurant in San Francisco. He also plans to bring on board Chef Ming Li from Koi Palace in Milpitas and Mayflower Restaurant in San Jose.
Lau started in the restaurant industry as a diver in Redwood City at the age of 14, just after his family immigrated from southeast China’s Guangdong Province. At the age of 18, he managed the nearby Juban Yakiniku house on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, which recently closed. Lau remembers the restaurant serving some of the region’s first premium A5 Wagyu Japanese beef.
Along the way, Lau tried different dishes at local restaurants with his patrons and has since enjoyed all kinds of dishes.
“Trust me,” Lau said, “I eat a lot.”
He wants customers to also be able to try things that are new to them.
“If people want to eat food they’ve never eaten before and can’t get it, come talk to me,” said Lau, who recently hosted a smooth opening for his new restaurant, located at 1029 El Camino Real in the former home of Black Pepper, which closed during the pandemic. This month, Lau aims to get a beer and wine license and hold a grand grand opening.
“There is tradition, and there is a new generation. And they can work very well together,” Lau said. “With food, there are no borders.”
Mandarin, 1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-391-9811. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Thai-inspired fried chicken is the star at Roost & Roast.
“I thought 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 said.
Roost & Roast aims to change that. The restaurant, which opened at Town & Country Village Mall in Palo Alto last month, specializes in preparing Hat Yai fried chicken, named after the town in southern Thailand where the dish originated. Available as a side dish or à la carte, the batter is made with potato starch, resulting in an airy and crispy texture. Barbecue and popcorn chicken are also on the menu.
Roost & Roast also serves egg-topped krawpow pad (sautéed basil with chicken, pork or tofu), as well as pad thai rice noodles, fried rice, salads, and roti (flatbread).
“Here we try to do traditional things,” said Poon. “We always use a mortar and pestle, palm sugar and cilantro. We do a lot of things by hand.”
Poon said the inspiration for his menu came from street food he tried in Thailand while visiting the town where his mother lived after immigrating there from Cambodia.
Many dishes on the restaurant’s menu are based on his mother’s recipes, Poon said.
Although Poon recently opened Roost & Roast, this is not the first restaurant business for him or his family.
In Mountain View, Poon previously operated a Buffalo burger bar on Castro Street. His parents ran Express 7, a “Chinese ma-et-pa” restaurant on East Middlefield Road that Poon later renamed as the quick and casual Asian restaurant Srasa Kitchen.
The family operated a restaurant at the Middlefield site for 17 years before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted them to refocus their business model.
Poon said the sales they counted on from tech workers fell sharply during the pandemic. They received a COVID-19 relief grant, but “it wasn’t quite enough for us – we had to go anyway,” Poon said.
Scaling up for a new restaurant means “going back to square one,” Poon said.
“We’ve built a successful business in the past.… It’s a new set of challenges, but it’s doable,” he said.
Rather than serving 700 customers a day like it did before the pandemic, the family business now serves around 100. That is to be expected, Poon said.
“It’s just learning to start over, that’s the biggest challenge.… It’s our attempt to come back,” he said.
They find a flow. Some days the food is sold out and other days there is a minimum number of customers. Hiring is all the more difficult as the restaurant industry faces a labor shortage.
“Right now it’s just hard to find staff. It’s a real family business. I work, my dad works, my mom works,” Poon said. “It’s a real small business going on right now as we try to figure it all out.”
The arrival of Roost & Roast in Palo Alto marks a homecoming for high school graduate Gunn and his family.
“It’s nice to finally have a business in the area where we grew up,” he said.
Roast & Roast at Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Suite 161, Palo Alto; 650-485-2395. Open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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