One of restaurateur Orawin “Nim” Greene’s favorite dishes to make and eat is khao soi. It’s a rich and savory yellow curry noodle bowl punctuated by tender chunks of chicken, red and green onion, fresh lime juice and a garnish of fried egg noodles. It’s part of the contemporary street food menu that defines Thaihey Thaifood, the Lee Drive restaurant that Greene and her husband, Nathan, opened in mid-May.
Transplants from the Bay Area, the Greenes began working on their restaurant concept more than a year ago, when they started selling homemade Thai food at the Farmers and Artisans Market in Lafayette. Their items quickly built a following, and within a few months it helped springboard them into a booth at White Star Market last December.
The couple was just gaining traction with a new Baton Rouge audience when the Mid City food hall closed abruptly in March. By then, Nim and Nathan had fully relocated to the Capital City. Amid the coronavirus shutdown, they began looking for a permanent location for their restaurant here, too.
“It happened so quickly, but we were able to find a new location that fits what we want to do,” Nim says.
The couple moved Thaihey into a spot on Lee Drive once occupied by now-closed Halal Guys. They retooled the modern, airy interior with a wall-size tapestry and decorative touches from Nim’s native Thailand. The full-service restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and has a drive-through window for to-go orders.
Hospitality comes naturally to the Greenes. Nim’s mother owns a restaurant in northeastern Thailand, and it’s where Nim got to know the business. She has also worked as a bartender, and later, in front-of-the-house management at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, California, where she and Nathan met.
Thaihey’s menu expands on its previous White Star Market lineup, and it is thoughtfully curated. Nim says she wanted a manageable group of dishes that allows her to use high-quality ingredients. Her crabmeat fried rice, for example, uses fresh lump crabmeat—a sweet and tender complement to savory rice, egg and fresh garlic and green onions. Other popular dishes include the massaman ribeye, in which ribeye is stewed down with red curry and warm spices and served in a coconut shell.
There’s also classic Thai green papaya salad, a great example of the range of sweet, spicy, bitter and sour flavors that characterize Thai cuisine.
The krapow khai dao, another Thai street food rice dish, combines rice with either chicken, shrimp or beef and a chile garlic sauce with fresh basil. A sunny side up egg is perched on top.
Green curry crispy wings are a great place to start, as is classic tomyum soup, a sweet and sour bowl fragrant with lemongrass, fiery chiles and plump shrimp.
The menu is rounded out by other rice and noodle dishes, each featuring a complex combination of ingredients, herbs and spices.
Many of the menu items are, or can be made, vegetarian or gluten free, while a special vegan menu makes it easy for plant-based diet fans to relax and enjoy this sumptuous, sultry fare.
“We want everybody to try a different part of Thai food that they might not have tried before,” Nim says. “We’ve been working hard to train our staff on what our dishes are about.” thaiheythaifood.com
This article was originally published in the September 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.