I did it. I made it to Circles Newbold for the explosive and undeniable flavors that I had only known through legend.
Was it everything I wanted and more from Thai food in Philadelphia, a scene that's booming but mostly underwhelming?
We sat in the BYOB dining room and watched as our order was delivered to us from Circles' takeout op across the street, which houses the kitchen. Covered in trays and still steaming as it was set before us.
Massaman Curry with Tofu: We ordered it regular hot, told that if we wanted "Thai hot", our server would bring us some additional spices. Rock on with it.
The heat was just right for me, the curry was slightly sweet and comforting with a fall spice background and tender vegetables. It was still very hot, but nowhere near as hot as the pad thai.
Pad Thai with Tofu: While I found the curry easier to eat, the pad thai was by far the most exciting and challenging pad thai I've encountered. I ordered regular hot and my mouth was on fire the entire time. I immediately started to sweat and after a few bites, started alternating between the curry and the pad thai just to relieve the mouth burn.
As hot as it was, I found it to be lighter and more refreshing than the typically heavy, oily pad thai in Philadelphia. The tamarind announced its arrival right away, and the cabbage and mangoes served with it were most welcome.
We powered through half of it and took the rest to go, finding that it was less spicy and still amazing as the next day's leftovers.
Vegetable Dumplings: I blame the majority of my mouth burn on the veggie dumplings, which seared the roof of my chops, creating a vicious playground for the spices that would enter it. When cool enough to eat, I still found the interior to be gummy. I do prefer steamed dumplings (these were fried) and this was my least favorite dish. Although the batch we had could have been off...
Seitan Satay: SEITAN LOVERS, this is it. By it, I mean that if you are a fan of Rich Landau's grilled seitan, then you will enjoy this expertly grilled satay and the peanut dipping sauce that finishes it. We were both sold on it and we are gravely serious about our seitan.
ReAnimator Coffee: Always a good time. Especially with spice.
Inside, Circles was a scene for Date Night, as other heat-seeking couples filled out two-tops around us in the dining room. We immediately agreed to come back and to order delivery, eager to sample the other curries and dishes on the vegan-conscious menu.
For everyone who recommended Circles to me, we understand each other.