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. The way the noodles fold and cling together is - dare I say - almost sensual. The noodles are served with a choice of protein; our waitress enthusiastically recommened the crispy chicken, and I’m glad we listened.
We took a chance on the new-to-us Kha Moo Dang, a dish of roasted pork, Chinese sausage, and soft boiled egg over rice with a sweet gravy. Though unexpected, the side of clear pork broth was so simple and enjoyable.
Of course we wouldn’t visit Heng without ordering Thai Rotisserie Chicken. The half chicken, cut up for easy consumption, comes with a side and a choice of rice. As I had hoped, the chicken was excellent, moist and well flavored.
We enjoyed our side of Garlic String Beans, bright green and slightly blistered with a sprinkle of garlic, a preparation that will forever make steamed string beans seem terribly boring. For the rice, we had the traditional sticky rice in a small woven basket. This was the freshest and most pliable sticky rice I’ve had locally. The traditional way to eat sticky rice is to roll and compress a small amount between your fingers and palm, then dip it in sauce or use it to pick up food.
We ended with a classic Thai dessert, Mango Sticky Rice. Heng is a friendly restaurant with a well-chosen menu and a good place to experience Thai street food classics from the comfort of your chair.
Heng Thai & Rotisserie
165 Angell Street • 751-1651