Providence’s newest Thai restaurant, Heng, is hidden below Thayer Street in a surprisingly charming exposed brick space. Even before Heng finished renovations, their sign caught my eye. Thai rotisserie chicken? I was intrigued. When they opened, it was my nose that noticed first, a slight tang of fermented fish sauce wafting down Angell Street.
Unlike most Providence Thai restaurants, Heng focuses on Thai street food, with rotisserie chicken as their specialty.
Heng opens early for dinner, something I appreciate now that I’m dining with a young baby. Visiting at four on a weeknight, we were not surprised to be the first ones there. This gave us the advantage of the full attention of our waitress, who was friendly and eager to make recommendations. She didn’t even bat an eye when we, looking forward to leftovers, ordered at least one extra appetizer and entree.
Our appetizers were classics – a Scallion Pancake with peanut dipping sauce and Kanom Jeeb, shrimp dumplings similar to Chinese shumai. Since Heng specializes in chicken, the Kai Tod, billed as their “famous Thai-style mini chicken finger,” seemed worth trying. While most American chicken fingers are white meat (or something barely resembling meat), these use the juicy dark meat. Piping hot and crisply fried with a spicy homemade sriracha, they were the perfect happy hour snack with a Singha Thai beer.
Though most of Heng’s cocktails are fairly standard, my Tamarita, a refreshingly sour margarita made with tamarind, creatively incorporated a typical Thai ingredient.
My husband and I quickly agreed on a Spicy Grilled Beef Salad, a meat-heavy salad with a tangy lime dressing similar to Cambodian Plear, a favorite of ours. Almost on the opposite end of the flavor wheel, the Pad Kee Mow (sometimes called “drunken noodles”) is a dense dish of wide rice noodles with a sweet sauce.