Every time we make Thai food at home or seek out the latest greatest takeout spot for green curry, I think back to our amazing trip there, and ultimately of the people that made it happen for us. Thank you, Grandmom Peggy, for everything you've done for us. Hope you're eating well, wherever you are. Love you.
Ok, onto the food and my new favorite Thai place. Circles has been open for over a year now, but buried deep in south Philly (15th & Tasker) it's not exactly getting a lot of foot traffic. After a Craig Laban review a few months back, the place has been receiving considerable buzz, and it's well earned.
Don't let the team of round eye servers fool you. The kitchen staff are off the boat from Thailand, and they have brought the flavors of their country with them. When the servers ask if you want it "Thai hot", be wary. This is not the dumbed down version of spicy you get at a normal Asian restaurant that thinks you can't handle the real stuff. You will have steam shooting out of your ears by the end of the meal. But you can't stop yourself from practically inhaling the perfect rice noodles, and brightly flavored beef salad that's placed before you.
The spring rolls were crisp and without a hint of grease. Filled with a nice mix of cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts and optional chicken, they were nearly as good as the ones we made during our class at BaiPai cooking school. A sweet plum sauce for dipping on the side and you've got a perfect appetizer. Some of the best I've had in Philly.
|chicken spring rolls w/ plum sauce|
The essential beef salad, served "Thai hot" and tasting of the bright flavors of lime, cilantro, mint and scallions. This instantly brought me back to dinner on the beach in Ao Nang. Those utterly unique tastes each shine through on their own, but become an incredible symphony when conducted properly. Your taste buds will be singing, while your lips are tingling.
|thai beef salad|
The star of the show and the measuring stick for any good Thai place is their Pad Kee Mow. This is the best version I've had in the US. Paper thin slices of pork, hunks of broccoli, julienned carrots, sliced peppers, mixed with super wide rice noodles, all soaking up an incredibly flavorful garlic-y sauce. Mix in a very healthy portion of spicy peppers and some fresh basil and it's like you're eating on the streets of Bangkok, just with better hygiene. Absolutely incredible.
|pad kee mow w/ sliced pork|
By the end of the meal, with the chili sweats in full force, we needed a cool down. A tall glass of Thai iced tea (basically black tea with some spices, sugar & milk) helps more than the ketchup and mustard for Harry & Lloyd. This is one of those meals that you can't stop eating, even though your mouth is on fire, reminiscent of the best stuff at Han Dynasty.
|thai iced tea - you're going to need this|
Lucky for us, they are opening a second location right on 2nd street in Northern Liberties. I've been working on my own Thai recipes at home, but with food this good down the street from us, it'll be hard not to pick up the phone for take out. The new location is scheduled to be open in late May or early June, according to the waitstaff at the South Philly locale. Can't come soon enough for me.
Food Baby Rating: Triplets!
Circles - Contemporary Asian Cuisine
1514 Tasker Street
267-687-1778 (take-out or delivery)