Opened in December 2021, Mai Tai Lounge is a relatively new addition to the Marblehead restaurant scene. Walking up the wooden front steps, customers are greeted with a modern mix of lounge and restaurant.
The name “Mai Tai” refers to a cocktail made of rum, Curaçao liqueur, orgeat syrup and lime juice. It’s one of the characteristic cocktails in Tiki culture — which kind of speaks to the restaurant’s blend of eating and drinking.
Mai Tai Lounge is owner Amanda Breen’s first restaurant business. She believes there’s room for really good local restaurants so that Marbleheaders don’t have to travel to Boston to have a great dining experience.
Mai Tai Lounge managed to open its door amid the pandemic. Breen said the pandemic did complicate the preparation, but the community was ready to dine out.
At the end of 2021, Mai Tai served its first customer and now has the capacity to serve around 66 seated customers, not including the outdoor area.
Thomas Saltsman — the artist who installed an Egyptian cobra goddess in town during Halloween — was the designer of the restaurant. According Breen, the average price of a dish is around $25.
“I think it was really just that the space and the abilities and the people came together at the right time,” said Breen.
Manager Kevin Le also played a role in turning Mai Tai Lounge into a reality. He has been in the catering industry for 17 years and is the creator of every dish and cocktail at Mai Tai Lounge. Breen also said Le has been instrumental in training the staff in how to prepare the dishes.
Before he came to Marblehead, Le worked in Washington, D.C. at many high-end restaurants. Later, he obtained his certificate at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston.
Le met Breen at the very end of a bar in Swampscott. Le was serving as the bartender and manager, and Breen was a customer. After that, they together brainstormed the idea of a fusion-food restaurant, the results of Le’s 17 years of practice.
Mai Tai is Le’s dream come true after decades of work. The food on the menu traces back to Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and China, Le said.
Le suggested customers try the lobster rangoon. “It’s fresh milk with a local lobster and green Swiss onions. It’s got a crispy on the outside.”
He also recommends the “My Mango Scallop.” He added: “With a little drop of butter over the top with mango salsa, they have fresh mango and a little sweetness.”
Mai Tai Lounge is inseparable from its bar section, which features a full page of drinks including nine signature Mai Tai cocktails with fun names including High Tide Mai Thai, a gluten-free vodka cocktail named after the coastal location. Another called Meet Me @ Mai Thai is a lychee-flavored vodka cocktail.
The bar also serves a drink called In Chamber, which includes a very rare 12-year Japanese whisky and is limited to one per guest. It’s served on the rocks and presented in a smoke box when served.
Mai Tai Lounge encourages customers to make reservations if they wish to dine on the weekends. Reservations are now open for Valentine’s Day.