The biggest challenge for a restaurant located within a shopping centre – even one as new as Marina Square Wentworth Point - is creating a transportive environment that makes you forget where you are. Using a long dark corridor lined with plastic plants that’s aimed at a feature wall with a large glowing yellow and electric blue neon logo, Hiew Thai, gives you a physical transition between shopping centre and restaurant.
As such, as you turn the corner into their dimly lit restaurant space, you have a sense of excitement. Exposed ceiling fixtures are darkened out of existence with your attention instead caught by dangling plastic plant baskets and floor to ceiling windows that let you look at the bright lights of Rhodes.
The industrial, street vibe is amped by polished concrete floors reflecting recessed bar lighting and interior neon like traffic lights bouncing back off wet asphalt.
There's a long narrow window that gives you a glimpse into a spotless, orderly kitchen, the light distracting from the darkened service cupboards that sit below it.
In short, Hiew Thai's lighting has been well designed.
There are even well-placed spotlights to illuminate what you're eating, and make menu reading a breeze in the moody environment.
And you do want to see what they’re putting on the plate, because their plating – particularly on dishes like their chef's special Chilli Crab ($24) where a lake of dry curry is crowned with crispy soft shell crab and lashings of coconut cream – is likely a notch above your standard local.
The standard Gai Satay ($8/5) or chicken satay, is notched up by turmeric marinated chook and a credible satay sauce filled with crushed peanuts and balanced by a pretty nam jim arjard (lightly pickled cucumber relish).
I’m even more excited by the Jenga-like tower of Khao Pod Ping ($6.50). The cleverly quartered corn is blackened and spicy against a swirl of coconut cream at the base of the bowl. I’m stealing this idea for home.
Plaa Hoy ($12) gives you five lightly seared scallops under a good pinch of green herbs, red onion and green chilli yuzu nam jim that accentuates their delicate flavour well.
The Poached Chicken Coconut Salad ($14.50) is clean and simple, with lime, green apple and cashew nuts. It's well presented under colourful coconut shreds and made with snapping fresh ingredients, though it's a little light on chilli and flavour intensity for me.
As I love pineapple, I thought the signature Hiew Fried Rice ($22) with chicken, prawn, onions, tomato, cashew nuts and shrimp paste, was well worth the rice upgrade.
It suited our chosen main - their twice cooked Hiew Pork Ribs ($26) tossed in the wok with sweet curry paste and served with lime leaves and crisp Thai basil.
With offerings like Koh Yaaw ($15) – a Thai tea-based Long Island iced tea – the cocktail list holds thematic promise if you’re not the designated driver like me. By the way, you get three hours of undercover parking at Marina Square Wentworth Point for free.
Level 1, Shop 414 Marina Square,
5 Footbridge Boulevarde, Wentworth Point
Ph: (02) 9737 0658