Because Some People Just Like To Be Hurt: It’s A Thai Tapout Dinner At Circles

Alex Boonphaya
The heat is ON on Thursday July 16th at Circles Thai.

Here’s the deal: chef Alex Boonphaya is hosting a 5-course Thai Tapout dinner, and he’s so confident that his dishes are too spicy to endure that he’s buying dinner for anybody who finishes the full five course meal. Winners who “beat the heat” will also receive a complimentary t-shirt.

It’ll work like this. Dinner costs $45, but can be made progressively cheaper by finishing the spicier courses. The first course is the most mild (4/10) and the last is the spiciest (10/10). If you make it through three, you pay $30. If you make it through four, you pay $20. If you attempt the fifth, you pay $10, and it’s free if you finish every last bite. Be warned: the fifth course features a ghost pepper concentrate–which is just crazy because concentrating the world’s hottest pepper into one fiery paste sounds just ridiculously dangerous.

But also kind of cool.

Anyway, keep reading, you masochists.

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Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Malaysian Restaurants and Food in Philadelphia

Penang and Fish-head curry from Banana Leaf | Photos by Neal Santos and Michael Persico

Penang and Fish-head curry from Banana Leaf | Photos by Neal Santos and Michael Persico

In Philly, Southeast Asian flavors are the gift that keeps on giving. In Point Breeze, South Philly and Chinatown, along Washington Avenue and even out in the ’burbs, there are enclaves whose composition and abstract representation of geopolitical borders are constantly shifting and changing. This means Thai and Laotian food on traditionally Vietnamese-heavy blocks, and awe-inspiring Malaysian food in Chinatown. It also means a deepening and broadening of available flavors, so if you’re looking to explore the subtle differences between Malaysian and Indonesian food, Vietnamese that goes beyond a bowl of pho, or Thai more complicated (and delicious) than a simple plate of pad Thai, there are many options.

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Alex Goes To Jimmy’s House: Tagging Along On A Midnight Shopping Trip For A James Beard Dinner

AlexShoppingThe 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.

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Alex Goes To Jimmy’s House: Circles Hosting A Pre-James Beard Dinner

free dinner circles

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.

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Thai New Year Knife Fight At Circles


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.

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Free Lunch at Circles Thai

Alex-Boonphaya-Circles-Photo-by-Courtney-AppleOn 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]

Circles Hosts Beer Dinner for Philippine Relief


Alex Boonphaya | Photo by Courtney Apple

Circles Thai in Northern Liberties has been planning a beer dinner on Thursday, November 14th with upstart Saint Benjamin Brewing Company for some time now. But with the devastation of the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan, Circles chef and owner Alex Boonphaya has changed the dinner into a fundraiser. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the four-course, $35 beer dinner will go to relief efforts.

Reservations are available for 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. seatings and can be made online.

The menu » 

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