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.
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.
On Tuesday night, the Northern Liberties location of Circles Thai (812 North 2nd Street) is throwing its second Social Circles dinner at 6:30 p.m. The deal is simple: You post photos and thoughts about your dinner on social media, and your meal is free. Read more »
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.
Before he left for his most recent trip to Thailand, Circles Thai chef/owner Alex Boonphaya had a batch of custom fortunes printed up, with a funny message on one side and a promo code on the other. The one pictured here is our favorite. Read more »
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]
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.
Circles’ chef and owner Alex Boonphaya is rolling out a new lunch menu this week. And today, September 24th between noon and 2 p.m. the menu is free. Boonphaya is looking for a big crowd to test his kitchen staff.
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.