Great Thai restaurants are hard to come by in Center City, so every new entry is worth consideration - especially one like Thai Square, the charming little BYOB tucked behind Naval Square and owned by former Erawan operators, Laddavanh Pongdara and her husband, chef Viroj Cuaichu.

Much of the menu is fairly standard (the pad see-ew noodles were very well-done).

But bold-flavor-seekers should head straight to the crispy catfish. Its potent sauce is a brew of house-blended panang curry and prik king chile paste, threaded with tart rhizome root and soft sweet chunks of Asian eggplant.

But the real surprise are the branches of young green peppercorns draped over top of the dish. Take a little chew on one of those branches, and the tender berries pop with a mildly numbing heat that clears your sinuses, allowing the spice and complex flavors to reach an even more vivid focus.

- Craig LaBan
 
Crispy spicy catfish, $18, Thai Square restaurant, 2521 Christian St., 215-454-6683; thaisquarephilly.com.