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Aug 23, 2007 12:16 PM

Circa in High Bridge

If you're wondering where some of The Ryland Inn staff has gone, look no further than Circa in High Bridge. It seems that chef Michael Coury left a few months ago and the place was bought by Joe Sparatta, who worked at the Inn for four years. His wife, also a Ryland Inn alumnus, is in charge of the wait staff and the wine selections.

I went to Circa several times and for the most part enjoyed dining there. The noise level, however, could be intolerable at times so we stopped going on weekends.

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  1. Although there were lots of positive reports about Circa, the fact that Michael Coury was the chef was precisely why I never tried it. We had one of the. worst. experiences. ever. at an Italian restaurant (since closed) where he was the chef.

    I would have considered trying Circa under this new ownership, but your comment about the intolerable noise level gives me pause. One of my major restaurant pet peeves. :-( Perhaps, it's quiet during the week? Since High Bridge is a bit of a trip for us, unless you or someone else can confirm, I won't risk it.

    5 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      RGR, at this point I would not trek half way across the state to eat at this restaurant. I have not been since the ownership/management changed and I do not know anyone else who has been. Right now, it's on our list of places to go but it's most definitely not a priority.

      I'm surprised at your comment re Michael Coury. The one thing that kept us going back to Circa was the quality of the food. During three or four visits we were never disappointed. For some reason, however, they were very stingy with the wine. I'm guessing their pours weren't much more than 100 ml. As already noted, the noise could be a real problem on weekends when the place was full. I'm sure this is still the case as the noise was more a function of room design than anything else. After our first visit, we went to Circa only on week nights.

      I see the menu for the restaurant has recently been posted on-line. As mentioned in the press release, it is clear that the owners are trying to work closely with local producers.

      One odd thing on the web site is that Joe Sparatta is listed as chef, not owner. Perhaps the press release got it wrong. Wonder whery Coury will pop up next?

      1. re: ambrose

        since Joe has been there, the quality and preparations of the food has gotten much better. It is a trip, but definetly worth it. The noise is still a problem but not so much during the week.

        1. re: avidcook

          Thanks, avidcook. As I mentioned, we never had an issue with the food. In fact, it was quite good. In view of your comments, however, I may move Circa up on my list! For me, it's not far to go but for RGR it's a bit of an excursion.

          BTW, where are you cooking these days?

          1. re: ambrose

            I not cooking anywhere,except my apartment. I'm opening a restaurant in Princeton.....soon.

        2. re: ambrose

          We ran into the wall of sound the first time we visited Circa, but were so charmed by the French bistro-ness of the place --- from menu to decor --- that in subsequent visits, we have simply gone for lunch or dinner at the less popular hours. The wine pour is not ungenerous, and the wine is perfect for the setting. Their curried mussels are wonderful, and the sauvignon blanc goes with the mussels like "French"goes with "fries."Take a hike through gorgeous Ken Lockwood gorge, just a few miles beyond High Bridge, then come by Circa for an early dinner. Or stop in for a long lunch on a weekday. I met a business colleague there and we hung out for two hours --- nobody's pushing you out the door. Circa's open from the early lunch hour till the late closing and serves you whenever you come in. This is a great spot!

      2. I ate at Circa back in May and really enjoyed my meal. My salad tasted fresh and my steak was cooked a perfect medium rare/rare. I don't remember what I had for dessert, but I remember really enjoying it.

        This past sat went back again for dinner and was slightly disappointed with the changes to the menu. In particular the removal of the sushi menu and the tres leche cake from the dessert menu. Also, it seemed like the prices were higher than when we went in May. I did enjoy both the tuna tartare and goat cheese ravioli with honey and brown butter appetizers ,but my seared scallops seemed overcooked and really gritty. As much as I missed the tres leche cake, the cardamom pot au creme was the perfect ending to the meal.

        The restaurant and bar were packed when we got there, but the noise level wasn't too much of a problem (didn't have to shout and could hear everyone at the table).

        4 Replies
        1. re: viperlush

          I've not been to Circa, but the changes in the menu are related to the fact that the original chef, Michael Coury, left several months ago and someone else is now in charge of the kitchen.

          1. re: RGR

            That's too bad, friends and family enjoyed Circa a lot more before the change. Since the change I've heard more negative comments about it. Hopefully once we (they) get use to the new menu they will once again enjoy eating there.

            1. re: viperlush

              If you read my previous post at the top of this thread, you will see that the reason I never considered going to Circa was *because* Michael Coury was the chef. With the change, I have considered trying it. Interesting that you've heard more negative comments since then. Is it just the menu change, or is it the quality of the cuisine?

              1. re: RGR

                I think it's a a mixture of both. My brother really enjoyed the tres leche cake and now that it is gone there is nothing special about Circa for him to consider driving out there again.
                My SIL's sister had a couple disappointing meals there this summer. Although I don't know if it was because of the quality or menu change, I suspect it was because of the quality. She is someone who complains about being stuck out in Washington so I don't think that a menu change would be enough for her to write off a restaurant.

                The menu wasn't what we expected, but except for my scallops everyone enjoyed their meals.

        2. fyi...The place was not bought by Joe Sparatta, he is the head chef. It was bought out by Ruddy Alvarez, the general manager.