Cuisine Critiques With Kelsey: Brasserie Circa

Kelsey Jones / Cluster Staff

Kelsey Jones / Cluster Staff

2013-09-05-2online 2013-09-05-1online

Kelsey Jones / Cluster Staff
Kelsey Jones / Cluster Staff

Anybody who knows me can tell you I am a huge proponent of Macon, especially its small business sector. I am a huge fan of local. I am also a huge fan of food.

As a child, I always tried to plan our meals for family vacations until I was told that we could not eat Mexican cuisine for every meal. Nonetheless, I still revel in the opportunity to plan dinner parties, cook a vibrant meal with someone I love, try new cuisines and visit new restaurants. So when presented the chance to write a restaurant review, I naturally jumped at the chance. What better way to get out in the community than to have a meal at one of its local tables?

Molly McWilliams Wilkins, Local Editor for The Cluster, suggested I try one of the Hotplates Restaurant Groups’ offerings. If that name does not ring a bell, it should! Hotplates is the umbrella to local downtown favorites: the Tic Toc Room, Bearfoot Tavern and Ginger Stir-Fry & Grill.

I knew these restaurants and their atmospheres already, as I had dined with them before, and really did enjoy my experience. Then I remembered that Hotplates had just opened another restaurant, but this one is in north Macon on Forsyth Street headed toward Wesleyan College. I decided I had my pick, and I was ready to go!

I decided to do my first restaurant review on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and went to recently-opened Brasserie Circa, Circa for short.

I brought along my boyfriend, Theron, so we could each order something different to get the full Circa experience.

I was immediately taken aback by how different the atmosphere was inside Circa compared to the building’s former resident, Greek Corner Deli. I can best describe the atmosphere as clean—in literal terms, but also in terms of color selection, design and functionality—and comfy, with cushioned black booths that hug you as you slip in for your dining experience.

I’m always impressed when people make good use of black and white in a simple and elegant style, and Circa does just that. Circa adds a bit of flair with its feature dark red accent wall and framed artwork. But enough about the place, let’s get to the good stuff: the food!

Theron and I had a waiter named Blair who was extremely knowledge able about the menu.

Circa offers sushi, starters and salads to kick off your meal. Though I did not try any of the sushi or starters, Blair recommended the rainbow roll, the spicy tuna roll and the jumbo lump crab cake.

I decided to start with a small house salad with a light herb balsamic dressing. Though the salad was vibrantly colored and festively adorned, I was not impressed enough to order it again for that price. Which brings me to an excellent point: price.

I am a stickler for price points and value, especially when it comes to my dining experience. While the menu offers something for every price range, it does push past $15 for the most part. The best cut of steak can get you near a $30 price tag, but you can also order a plate of sushi for about $10, so it really depends on what you are looking for.

With my salad came a small basket of bread which was a nice touch, but definitely a small portion. By the time I was done with my salad, we had a special visit from Circa owner, Cesare Mammarella.

I was very excited to get to ask Mammarella himself more about Circa. He explained to me the move to north Macon as a very logical one, in that north Macon has a niche for what he was interested in doing with Circa.

Mammarella envisioned, and in my opinion delivers on, a board menu offering the classic, yet contemporary American fare. I learned from him that “brasserie” means brewery, which is an appropriate forename to Circa considering it offers an extensive beverage list with a modern-neighborhood appeal.

As he explained his vision for a restaurant that would really embody what it means to be an American brasserie, I saw his dream for Circa come to life. From the Japanese and Italian favorites blended with American tradition and French infusion, Circa’s menu really does encompass the mix of a true American neighborhood. Mammarella’s hospitality marked my experience at Circa as a great night.

Out came Theron’s tantalizing Szechuan salmon paired with a veggie stir fry and my succulent tuna steak with sautéed crab meat and a side of mango salsa and Asian-veggie slaw. My mouth is watering now just thinking about it.

I was very impressed with the care the chef had put into the presentation as well as the personality of the food. For whatever points Circa lost on my salad and bread basket, it made up ten times over with its entrees.

The tuna steak was tender with a pink middle and black pepper trimming. It was served beside an ample portion of crab meat, a tangy and crispy mango salsa and a very unique Asian slaw blend. I barely had time to check out Theron’s salmon because I was so enthralled with my own plate, but I took note of its Asian influences and sweet, bright colors and fresh taste.

We ate every last bite of our entrees, and with that, my first ever restaurant review was complete.

Overall, I am much impressed by the cozy but sophisticated atmosphere, the knowledgeable and hospitable staff and the presentation and unique tastes of Circa. If you are like me, you may want to visit Circa on a special occasion and perhaps split an appetizer with a friend to get a taste of the starters.

Then, you can choose your preference on the entrees because that is where Circa does its most impressive work. Thank you again for hosting us this week, Circa, and best of luck in the next year of business. I am sure you will soon become a Macon favorite!