An elevated Thai dive bar, Merai, will open in Brookline

Restaurants

The spot comes from the same team behind Mahaniyom.

Chompon Boonnak of Merai. Photo courtesy of Merai

A creative Thai restaurant and bar for adventurous diners will debut in Brookline Village in the new year.

Merai, a destination for re-imagined global cuisine with Thai-inspired flavors and Asian cocktails, will open on Harvard Street in February 2024. The spot comes from the same team behind Mahaniyom, the Thai tapas restaurant that opened in 2020 and was named Eater Boston’s Best New Restaurant in 2021. Co-owner Chompon Boonnak, who leads Merai with Smuch Saikamthorn, said that the restaurant will be influenced by “ran lao,” casual Thai bars, where visitors can bring their family and friends.


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“The concept is called a ‘high dive,’” Boonnak said. “It’s like a dive bar, but elevated, an upscale dive bar. It’s not formal. Our concept is super casual and will serve the neighborhood, welcoming people who enjoy the food and drinks. The location is going to be very close to Mahaniyom, [but] we’ll do a different concept.”

While Mahaniyom’s menu focuses on authentic Thai food, Merai’s kitchen will draw from cultures around the world, putting a Thai twist on dishes. The menu was created by Mahaniyom’s Song Thanaphon Authaiphan and Guide Thanarat Kasikitthamrong. Authaiphan will lead the kitchen at Merai as head chef. Guests will be able to order plates like the Hung Lay Bao, pork belly braised in Thai Northern-style curry, in bao buns. They can also try the Khao Soi Fettuccini, which Boonnak described as “a crash between [the] famous noodles everyone loves and Italian pasta.” The cocktail program will be overseen by Panupong Viriyapongsukij, although drink names have not been released yet.

Like Mahaniyom, Merai will have an intimate space, seating 40 people. The interior is dark and will feature a mural designed by the same artist who created the black-light piece in the Mahaniyom bathroom, Ponnapa Prakkamakul. The bar is meant to look plain and simple, illuminated by some LED lighting. Throughout the dining area, pendant lamps will hang from the ceiling.

Boonnak said that he admires the Brookline neighborhood. Mahaniyom has attracted both local residents and “foodies” who are interested in a playful, adventurous dining experience, and Boonnak hopes to reach a similar customer base with Merai. He added that following the success of the team’s first restaurant, opening Merai felt like a strong next step.

Thai identity and culture is very important to Boonnak, who emigrated from Thailand 15 years ago. Originally from the province of Phetchabun, he hopes to bring flavors from his home country to Greater Boston.

“We want to let the food speak, but also the hospitality,” Boonnak said. “… I want to [help] people understand Thai culture more. I want to have a home for Thai people, as well. If you miss home, you can come and hang out here.”