Mahaniyom, a Thai Gem in Brookline Village, Is Getting a ‘Playful’ Sibling

Merai will feature a cocktail bar and a menu that uses “Thai flavors as a tool to celebrate different cuisines.”

A Thai salad with shrimp, pomelo, slivers of chili

A pomelo salad from Mahaniyom’s opening menu in 2020, with butterfly pea flower lemonade. / Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal

The award-winning team behind Brookline Village’s Thai stunner Mahaniyom has a new project in the works: Merai, opening in late fall 2023 in the same neighborhood. The plans are in the early stages, so the team isn’t ready to share too many details, or the exact address, but Merai—a Thai word referring to alcohol—will be “a place where we celebrate and cherish the diversity in food with what we know best: Thai flavors,” says managing partner Chompon Boonnak. And yes, given the name, the bar—with a full liquor license—will be a highlight, much as it is at Mahaniyom, although the two bars will have different focuses.

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As for Merai’s food, the team is still ironing out the general concept, but it’ll be more creative and playful than at Mahaniyom, Boonnak says. “We will be using Thai flavors as a tool to celebrate different cuisines,” a departure from Mahaniyom’s “focus on authentic Thai food.” Chefs Song Thanaphon Authaiphan and Guide Thanarat Kasikitthamrong, who both lead the kitchen at Mahaniyom, will also work at Merai.

For now, that’s about all that the team can share about Merai, but in the meantime, those who haven’t hopped aboard the Mahaniyom train yet have a few months to get up to speed and get excited about its forthcoming sibling.

Mahaniyom debuted in late February 2020—quite unlucky timing, given the pandemic shutdowns that followed only a few weeks later—but diners quickly realized that something special was happening in the cozy little Washington Street space. Boonnak and co-owner Smuch Saikamthorn, who grew up together in the north-central Thai province of Phetchabun, drew inspiration for Mahaniyom from ran lao, casual Thai bars. Think small plates that pair well with drinks; a homey, informal vibe; and a menu that pulls from various Thai regions, showcasing dishes that members of the restaurant’s team miss from home.

Given the ran lao influence, the bar program is an important part of the equation. Boonnak is an experienced bartender, having previously worked at the Chinatown hotspot Shojo, which has excellent cocktails. At Mahaniyom, Boonnak and the team offer a creative drink list, especially when it comes to adding Thai flavors to classic cocktails. Take the Mahaniyom Sazerac, for example, which combines Thai tea-infused rye with house bitters and absinthe.

Since Mahaniyom’s opening, the acclaim has flowed in: It was Eater Boston’s best new restaurant in 2021. That same year: Boston restaurant critic Jolyon Helterman gave it three stars out of four (“generally excellent”) and we gave it a 2022 Best of Boston award and a No. 15 ranking on our 2022 list of Greater Boston’s 50 top restaurants. Yeah, you could say we’re a little bit obsessed with Mahaniyom, but others love it, too: five out of five stars in 2022 from The Boston Globe, which praised Mahaniyom as “the Thai food we deserve.”

The bottom line? We can’t wait to see what this team does next. (And we can’t wait to see how they top the Mahaniyom bathroom, in all its blacklight-mural, is-this-a-rave-or-a-restroom glory.)

So, “why open a second restaurant” seems almost silly to ask, but ask we did. “My business partner Smuch and I still remember how hard it was to start it from zero, but we did have a great team who have supported and worked their hearts out for Mahaniyom since the beginning,” says Boonnak. “Therefore, I think now is the time for our team to take another step.”

Merai is opening in late fall 2023 at a to-be-announced address in Brookline Village. No web presence yet, but keep tabs on big sibling Mahaniyom on Instagram.