Last winter, the restaurant-nightclub combo that was Seven locked its doors, turned its chairs on its tables and shut off its disco lights. Several weeks later, the front door of 1035 Pearl St. opened once again, this time as Circle, a spot that deceives the hopeful diner.
Inside the restaurant, which, like its predecessor, transforms into a nightclub after hours, a deluge of modular plastic décor sends a modern and undeniably adolescent vibe. White frame-like slats hide the beautiful brick wall behind the bar, and the tables, also stark white, are covered with black polka dots. The artwork offers a strange glimpse into what can only be described as new age pointillism.
Soon, after my guest Alison and I had been seated, it became clear that there was only one other locale similar to the interior of Circle: Ikea.
To feel as though one is dining in the middle of a Scandinavian department store has not been a common goal of modern restaurateurs. We decided to send the images of small wooden beds out of our minds and focus instead on the menu.
It was a shock, I must say. The last time I saw fettuccine alfredo on a menu was – no, not in Italy; the dish doesn’t even exist there – at summer camp in the fifth grade, along with pasta marinara with meatballs. To be fair, those are the least sophisticated choices Circle offers.
Continue down the menu and you’ll find wild mushroom risotto, beef stew, “steak and frits,” wild salmon and New York strip steak.
More sophisticated than generically sauced pasta? Sure. Creative? Not particularly. A more innovative menu would perhaps have redeemed the edgy decor, but this food only made it more childish.
Appetizers offer a bit more jazz, with “tempura veggies,” Cajun skewers, Southern fried shrimp and white bean dip. The soup and salad section brought me right back to that fifth-grade cafeteria, with options like chicken noodle soup, house salad and Caesar salad.
Considering Seven’s former menu, which involved cutting-edge innovation and dazzling uniqueness, I couldn’t help but think that dinner at Circle is a step backward for 1035 Pearl.
Our server was the kind of girl you’d hire as a hostess: kind, smiling, yet lacking the interest in cuisine necessary to serve tables. Her dragging pants and scuffed Converse made the restaurant’s goal of an “elegant and refined” eatery somewhat of a joke. We decided the college-age girl was new at the job, and forgave her fumbles and stock-pile quotations.
What we really wanted, nearly an hour after our 7:30 reservation, was to eat. This was beginning to seem like something we might have to beg for. Though only a couple of the restaurant’s tables were full, the kitchen was held up in a big way. It only gave us more time to study the too-bright lighting and not-enough music.
The pork chop–pan seared, covered in caramelized onions and nestled aside mashed potatoes and collard greens–was all-in-all a pretty mediocre dish. The chop itself was overcooked and verging on tough, and the greens were cooked all the way to pale-green status: never good.
The mashed potatoes? Tasty, especially when scooped with a forkful of flavorful onions.
Alison’s steak and frits appeared lovely. Tender slices of steak were lain delicately in a row alongside a bed of crisp potato chips. A sucker for anything steak, Alison was pleased. I found the meat lacking punch in both texture and flavor. The chips were the best thing I tried all night – light and crisp, as though the stocky potatoes themselves were only an afterthought.
We forewent dessert and received the bill. Prices at Circle are not outrageous; appetizers range from $5.95 to $7.95 and the average entrée price is about $15. But to be honest, there’s better food out there for much less.
As Circle has only been open around two months, their kinks are understandable. Things like slow service are an easy fix. Things like the lackluster menu options themselves will take more work.
But until things smooth over, pick another spot for dinner. Perhaps head over to Circle post-meal for drinks and dancing.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lauren Duncan at Lauren.email@example.com.