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Circles comes full circle in return to Carrollwood

After 13 years in South Tampa, Circles has returned to its Carrollwood home. The bistro left its South Tampa location late last year. Circles had operated a Carrollwood location from 1988 to 2003, but closed it because of parking issues. This time around the bistro is in the Carrollwood Village Shops — plenty of parking room and quite a few other restaurants, including Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, Chili's and World of Beer. Circles continues to offer a Continental menu with an Asian twist.
The new location has less space and charm than its South Tampa predecessor. But it does have attentive service, a full bar and respectable wine list, similar menu and pricing and quality meals. The new location features about a dozen tables, and another dozen stools around the full-service bar. Two televisions are mounted behind the bar, with The Dove radio station playing the likes of Lionel Ritchie and The Bee Gees at a discreet volume. Ambience comes from big windows overlooking the courtyard fountain, large potted red hibiscus and mature palm trees. For dinner, we tried the classic bacon cheeseburger. It was a handmade patty, cooked to order with some pink in the middle and served with melted American cheese, crisp bacon, a ripe tomato, purple onion, green leaf lettuce and mayonnaise on a crusty roll — and courteously cut in half. On the side were crisp french fries. We also tried the Laab Gai. It's a salad of sautéed ground chicken seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice and red pepper and then tossed with cilantro and green and red onions. The portion was adequate, although we expected something a bit spicier. Also mild was the Pad Thai with Shrimp. Although the menu states that it is seasoned with medium spice, we found the stir-fried rice noodles, bean sprouts, tofu, egg and five jumbo shrimp a bit bland. So if you prefer it spicy, we suggest you request the chef add on a bit more heat. Dinner entrees come with a choice of soup or salad. It's worth the extra $2.50 to get the Lobster bisque. The thick, creamy soup was well-seasoned and loaded with lobster. The yeasty table rolls are a perfect complement to the creamy bisque. Where Circles really shines is with its Sunday brunch. The Jumbo Lump Crab Meat Eggs Benedict featured two perfectly poached eggs atop a piece of thick artesian bread, lots of lump crab and a buttery Hollandaise sauce. The dish is served with choice of fruit or potatoes — we were "bad" and went for the potatoes, and they were oh so good. The French Toast featured the same thick bread dipped in an egg batter, baked then served with maple syrup on the side. The blueberry pancakes were served at that mysterious pancake consistency where light and airy meets richness. Although its environment may not have quite the charm of the South Tampa location, the service and food remain worthy of diners' consideration.

Dining review

Circles of Carrollwood

Bottom Line: Veteran Tampa restaurant returns to its Carrollwood roots in new location.

Where: 13002 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL

Hours: Tuesday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.; Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.; Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Credit Cards: All major

Reservations: No

Children's Menu: Yes

Alcohol: Wine and beer

Wheelchair Access: Yes

Price: $15 to $30

Contact: (813) 969-0001

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