Brookline’s Outstanding Mahaniyom Proves Less Is More

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Restaurant Reviews

Dynamite drinks and Thai cuisine are the ball game in Mahaniyom, where the highly concentrated cuisine dares not do it all.


The deliciously rich red crab curry at Mahaniyom, a top-flight Thai restaurant in Brookline Village. / Photo by Brian Samuels

The fattest cut of a pig is not really the belly. It is the jowl. In Italy, they cure him by guanciale, distributing it like pieces of bacon on top a few tablespoons at a time spared in primitive– portions of carbonara.

At Brookline Village, on the other hand, at the exceptionally good little Thai Mahaniyom Plate and Cocktail Bar, they take a piece of bajou the size of your fist, cook it overnight in a concentrated brine of soy sauce, garlic, cilantro and honey. , and white pepper, then grill it all to order like a ridiculously marbled pork chop. Sliced ​​and rolled out on the plate in a cascade of charcoal-crusted dominoes, tilted to tease the brilliant white glow from within the translucency at the breakfast sausage level, Mahaniyom’s kor moo yang ($ 13) is plump and juicy and, as you’ve probably figured out, rich like everyone else. He doesn’t need salt.

What he could use: some sort of hunter. Do not worry. The kitchen is there for you. First, sprigs of coriander, stems thick like cocktail straws, for a clean contrast to the soap, followed by an invigorating balm of nam jim jaew, cherry tamarind and lime juice, seasoned with fish sauce and thickened with grilled hazelnut rice powder and crushed dried peppers. Finally, oblong discs of crispy cucumber in an ice bath to bring the palate up to date after a few bites of hot bacon. With three skillful strokes of the magic wand, a potential heartbreaking turns into an incredibly elegant passage of swine poetry. It’s fantastic.

A strong adherence to the principles of culinary pleasure, coupled with precision execution. It’s a winning combo for any restaurant, but for a Thai restaurant in this city, where even Best of Boston winners tend to prioritize encyclopedic breadth over emphasis on preservation, it’s downright exhilarating. S&I, for example, offers plenty of gems, but they’re scattered across a menu of over 200 items once you include every pork, tofu, and seafood mix permutation you can trade, along with rangoons. of crab and wonton soup. (Thai North Grand Total: over 400!) Mahaniyom, meanwhile, clearly rejects the idea of ​​serving as a summary of all the dishes in cooking history, let alone a hit parade with blurred borders to please. to the pan-Asian crowd. There are only 31 items on the dinner menu, including sides of jasmine rice ($ 3), sticky rice ($ 3), and vermicelli ($ 2).

Indeed, intentionality reigns here – starting with the specificity of the concept. Co-owners Smuch Saikamthorn and Chompon Boonnak, childhood friends who grew up in Thailand’s Phetchabun province, chose to model the place after what Boonnak calls ran laoNo-frills, Thai bars for a drink, and simple, satisfying street food. At Mahaniyom, the catalog is not complete. They have what they have. There’s no larb, no pad see ew, no tom yum kai soup, not even a green curry. The sumptuous panang curry ($ 14) is served with beef. You can’t get it with chicken or tofu. Lo and behold, a funny thing happens when a kitchen isn’t ready to cook hundreds of different dishes all the time: the likelihood of putting on a series of jaw-dropping shows increases exponentially.

Which means you’re much more likely to eat them too. Among the dazzling is plaa hed ($ 9), a modest-looking mushroom salad, and the type of dish that goes invisible on a 300-item menu. Here, it goes electric: skinny shimeji steamed mushrooms, then mixed with ginger, shallots, mint, lime leaves, feathery swirls of bruised lemongrass, green apple and enough chili peppers to make your eyes sink. The Manila clams ($ 18) sautéed with garlic, purple licorice basil and a touch of sweet and fiery chili jam were a revelation: crisp, clean, and delicious. If Mahaniyom were a place to choose their proteins, you would be tempted to try them all prepared like this.

Pad Thai with shrimps. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Instead, your attention is directed to winners like homemade products. sai krog khao ($ 12). Traditional fermented pork belly and rice sausage, it has a soft texture (detractors might say floury) that won’t appeal to everyone. cha, but my crew crushed every piece. Then there’s the sensational beef massaman ($ 12) and its collagen-filled stem. Deliciously rich in chunks of coconut cream and powdered roasted peanuts, it had the lively layering of flavors – distinct notes of dried chili, lime makrut leaf, fresh turmeric, lemongrass, beer root and galangal, clove and nutmeg, plus a dozen other herbs and spices – this is the telltale sign of a hand-made curry paste, stained with a mortar and pestle, or in small batches in a wet / dry grinder, and not bombarded with carpet into a flat homogeneity by an industrial machine. Prefer your massaman with seafood? No dice. But there is a red curry with crabmeat ($ 18) that will blow your mind.

I also applaud the predetermined spice levels. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually huge. Here in Boston, we expect Thai restaurants (also: regional Indian and Chinese) to let us dictate the heat of chili by the numbers, like ordering Buffalo wings at a sports bar. At Mahaniyom, the kitchen makes these calls. Beef massaman was a moderately incendiary 6 or 7 (out of 10). The wok-fried morning glory ($ 12), a type of boiled spinach, was hot as hell… and wonderful. The Crab Fried Rice ($ 18), meanwhile, was sweet and soothing. When you leave the programming to the pros, you end up with a curious thing called balance. Just because you can take the heat doesn’t mean you should.

That said, there are a few weak points: Klui puu ($ 12), fried “flutes” filled with crab, pork belly and shrimp, were nice but didn’t quite play the role of the main crispy snack. (The flip side of a tight menu: less room for duds.) While the kitchen is resistant to making stunt food, here’s one place that could use bells and whistles. The Brussels sprouts ($ 7) with fish sauce were sweet and nicely charred… and looked too much like every version of any place in the neighborhood you’ve been to. I think there should be more sizes of objects, especially smaller ones, to allow even groups of two to sample a larger band. Finally, on busy nights, when the rudimentary staff juggle an endless stream of takeout orders plus a full 26-seat restaurant, you can fret an eyebrow trying to get yourself another round of drinks.

The rigorously balanced Bangkok First Class. / Photo by Brian Samuels

And Mahaniyom is one place you’ll definitely want another spin, especially now that the bars are finally – after a painful long hiatus – available to heal. It’s a bold move to plant a flag as a handcrafted cocktail joint with a standard bearer like Blossom Bar half a block away, but Boonnak (aka Boong, a longtime former Shōjō) has it all. back it up, whether it’s a balanced Sazerac ($ 13) tilted east with Thai tea-infused rye, or the Bangkok First Class ($ 13), an aviation riff that looks like melted blueberry ice cream but strikes the palate with rigorous rigor.

Then there’s the Eleven Tigers Rum ($ 10), one of four traditional herbal infused spirits called ya-dong, presented as a still life on a black plate with accompaniments that map your taste receptors: sour mango pickle, chili salt, sweet water infused with pandan leaf, then the bitter rum itself. Historically, says Boong, ya-dong were elixirs sipped by overworked farmers “to relieve aches” and … and anyway. In the end, folks: it’s been a long year and a half.

★★★

Mahaniyom
236 Washington Street, Brookline, 617-487-5986, mahaniyomboston.com

Highlights of the menu

Mushroom salad ($ 9), Grilled pork cheek ($ 13), Crab curry ($ 18), Beef massaman curry ($ 12)


★★★★ Extraordinary | ★★★ Generally excellent | Good | Fair | (No stars) Poor

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