Roost & Roast, Palo Alto
Southern fried chicken is a staple most everywhere. Korean fried chicken just had its big moment. Now, comes Thai fried chicken on the scene.
Hat Yai Fried ($14) is probably the most popular dish with three pieces of Southern Thai-style fried chicken that come with a mound of rice strewn with deliciously crisp, fried onion and garlic slivers. Dusted in potato starch, the chicken, while at times cut into rather haphazard pieces, has a wonderfully crisp, airy exterior. There’s little to no seasoning on it, though, which is surprising. As a result, you may want to drizzle on the accompanying sweet chili sauce to boost the flavor. You better like sweet, though, because that’s the predominant taste of the sauce. However, you can also get a container of Sriracha to mix in to add more heat.
The BBQ Chicken ($14) was actually much more flavorful. The moist chicken tasted of rice wine, fish sauce and herbs. So much so that you really didn’t even need the accompanying sweet chili dipping sauce. It was a generous portion of chicken, too, piled over a foundation of white rice.
The roti ($8) comes three to an order with a container of thin, creamy Thai curry sauce to dunk into. Crispy and just a little greasy, the layered, tender within flatbread is a perfect addition to anything else you order.
The spiciest dish was the papaya salad ($11), again served in an abundant portion with shredded green papaya tossed with carrots, cherry tomatoes, garlic, peanuts, and Thai chilies. It’s a refreshing dish with its crunchy textures and sweet-tangy-spicy character.
The glass noodle salad ($13) is a heap of cold, slippery, thin, mung bean noodles with shredded cabbage, peppers, red onions, cherry tomatoes, and a good amount of shredded chicken breast. It’s a substantial salad dressed with lime and fish sauce that could make for an entree all on its own.
Pro Tip: Unless you count the sweet, milky Thai iced tea, there’s no real dessert offered at Roost & Roast. However, it is conveniently located right next to Cudos, which specializes in frozen custard and mini donuts. Cudos opened briefly before shuttering because of equipment problems. But it is expected to reopen in October. Meantime, you can get your sweet tooth fix at all manner of other establishments at Town & Country Village, including Douce France patisserie, Kara’s Cupcakes, and Tin Pot Creamery.
Paper Platez/Taqueria La Bamba Truck, Mountain View
When I first moved to the Peninsula/South Bay in the 1990s, Taqueria La Bamba was a staple. It was a place where you could go for a soul-satisfying, humongous burrito so sizeable that it often took me two days to finish — which was a plus on a newspaper reporter’s salary.
When it was forced to close because of redevelopment plans, I mourned its loss for a spell, only to rejoice at its reopening at a new spot nearby. But it, too, later closed due to financial constraints.
Last year, however, Leo Munoz, son of the original owner Oscar Munoz, decided to try his hand at a food truck, which is now semi-permanently parked at O’Malley’s Sports Pub on Old Middlefield Way in Mountain View.
When he first debuted the truck, he dubbed it Paper Platez. Perhaps realizing it made more sense to pay homage to his father’s original restaurant, he let the Paper Platez web site lapse and replaced it with a Taqueria La Bamba one instead.
There’s plenty of parking at O’Malley’s, as well as a good number of outdoor tables if you want to dig into your food right then and there. We decided to get our food to-go to enjoy at home.
It may be my mind playing tricks on me, but the burritos might not be quite as shockingly massive as before. That being said, they are still plenty huge. The carnitas super burrito ($12.50) is a bountiful flour tortilla groaning with rice, pinto beans, pico de gallo, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and braised pork. It’s one of those beloved old-school burritos where the ingredients all meld together with every bite loaded with creaminess.
You can get the super nachos with your choice of meat ($12.93). It’s a pile of circular corn tortilla chips loaded with refried beans, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, salsa, and my husband’s choice of diced carne asada. This is beer food if there ever was one.
La Bamba/Paper Platez is the rare place where you can enjoy queso birria tacos ($4.36). This oversized taco is fried, so it has a crisp exterior that gives way to an ample filling of saucy stewed beef laden with melted cheese, onions, cilantro, and salsa verde. The edges of the shredded beef get crispy, too, which is a wonderful treat in and of itself. A small cup of consomme comes alongside. You can pour it over the taco or even dip it in, kind of like a French Dip sandwich. The consomme boasts an intense beefy flavor with a slick of red oil on top, making it quite rich tasting. It’s made for dipping as opposed to slurping a big bowl of it.
Pupusas also are available. You get two for $3.44 with your choice of filling. I went with the pork and cheese. The thick griddled corn flatbread is homey tasting, and stuffed with juicy shredded pork and cheese. The cheese may congeal by the time you get it home. But if you just re-toast in a hot skillet on both sides, you will be good to go. The accompanying perky cabbage slaw is a nice bright contrast to the heaviness of the meat and cheese.
In a time full of challenges and tragedies, it’s heartening to see this cherished institution reinvented for a new dawn.
Pro Tip: If you walk up to the truck to order, the menu is fairly concise. However, if you order delivery or pick-up ahead of time on the web site, the menu is more expansive, most likely to give the crew extra time to compose the more involved dishes such as seafood entrees, enchiladas, and tortas.
And if you’re hungry for more background and history on this beloved taqueria, check out this fine Mountain View Voice story.