Circles chef Alex Boonphaya and his wife are tired. They’ve slept less than 90 minutes and they’ve just finished serving 70 diners out of a kitchen that’s not their own. But their first dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan seems to have gone well and now they desperately need a drink … or a bed.
The Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market is a lonely place at midnight. And that’s just how Circles Thai chef/owner Alex Boonphaya likes it. The refrigerated temperature doesn’t phase him despite his short-sleeved t-shirt, and on this past Wednesday morning, he quietly looks over boxes full of colorful fruits and vegetables imported from around the world–trying to decide which will make the cut for his dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan tonight.
To call Boonphaya unassuming is to speak a significant understatement. Though he continues to win “Best of Philly” awards and survived a year-long application process to cook at the famed Beard House, his manner is shy and his ego is most assuredly in check. As he ambles through the Essington Avenue warehouse, glancing frequently at a notebook where he’s written a meticulous shopping list, he thanks product runners graciously, simply answers “yes” to a cashier who asks if he’s a chef, and orders a humble tuna sandwich to go for dinner from the on-site diner.
“Chefs don’t eat very glamorously,” he says softly to a member of the three-person entourage who’s accompanied him on this evening’s errand.
For those who can’t make it to chef Alex Boonphaya’s James Beard House dinner next Thursday, August 14, the owner of the growing mini-chain of Circles Thai restaurants (and perennial Best of Philly winner) will host a preview at his Northern Liberties location tomorrow at 6pm. For $50 you can BYOB for six courses plus a pre-dinner sparkling wine (included) and hors d’oeuvre reception that spans the breadth of Thai cuisine.
Chefs Alex Boonphaya (of Circles) and Peter Woolsey (of Bistrot La Minette) were just going to get together for a plain old collaboration dinner in celebration of the upcoming Thai New Year. But then they thought, “Hey, you know what would be more fun? Let’s turn it into a battle!”
Which is exactly what they’re doing–a 3-course by 3-course, head-to-head cook-off wherein 40 guests will get to determine who is the best Thai cook in the house. And if you’re up for it, you can be one of those 40 judges.
On Tuesday, November 26th chef and owner Alex Boonphaya is giving away lunch at Circles in South Philadelphia to celebrate the Thai restaurant’s fifth anniversary.
Everyone who stops by the restaurant between noon and 2 p.m. will get to choose among Basil Fried Rice, Pumpkin Curry, Tofu Pad Thai and Pad Prik Khing with Tofu.
Limit one dish per person.
Circles Thai – South Philadelphia [Foobooz]
And because Circles is a Thai restaurant, it makes total sense that, to celebrate the new menu, chef Alex Boonphaya is giving away free burgers to everyone at the Northern Liberties location between noon and 2pm tomorrow–the day the new menu launches. I mean, nothing says Thailand like a nice cheeseburger, right?
Actually, the burger? That isn’t so weird since, slowly but surely, Boonphaya has been turning Circles into a strange kind of Thai/Mexican/American/Indian/Spanish/Korean fusion restaurant with things like Thai burritos, kimchi tacos with Penang beef, lamb massaman naan pizzas and nachos on the new board.
Oh, and that burger? Not your traditional bar burger, natch. He’s calling it a Sai Oar burger, making it with ground beef and lamb, topping it with fried onions, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese and a fried egg and and serving it with tomatillo sauce.
You can check out the full lunch menu after the jump. And trust me–it’s worth a read.
2013 has certainly been a helluva year for chef Alex Boonphaya of Circles. Between the collaboration dinners, his Thai New Year feast, a new menu of soups and whatever else he’s done while we weren’t looking, the man has been busy. And he isn’t done yet.
Boonphaya’s latest creation is a full-on Thai street food menu designed exclusively for the NoLibs location. These ten dishes will be available daily in addition to Boonphaya’s regular menu, and his goal in creating this new menu is to take advantage of Philadelphia’s fascination with street food by introducing flavors from other countries and cultures.
And here’s the lineup…
For the past couple months, Circles chef Alex Boonphaya has been welcoming some of the city’s best chefs into his kitchen for a series of collaboration dinners that have all been leading up to this: his three-day-long king-hell blowout 8-course Thai New Year party. For it, he has cobbled together the best dishes culled from his collaboration dinners and will be offering the whole thing for just $50 a pop.
Wanna know what’s on the menu?
A handful of seats remain for the John Taus (The Corner, Corner Foodery) and George Sabatino (Morgan’s Pier) collaborative dinner tonight at Circles Northern Liberties. The six-course dinner hosted by Circles’ Alex Boonphaya is $50 per person and is BYOB.
Chef/owner Alex Boonphaya has already made a lot of news with his Thai restaurant Circles in Northern Liberties. But now he’s doing it again, announcing a series of collaboration dinners with notable local chefs, all culminating with a kind of 8-course greatest hits dinner.
Check out the schedule below.