By KATIE MOEN For Union County HAWK
WESTFIELD — Last Monday, friends and family gathered together in the dining room of Maya Thai, one of Westfield’s newest eateries, for a special blessing ceremony meant to bring good luck and prosperity both to the business itself and the family behind it.
“These types of blessings are very important in our culture,” said owner Sunisa Martinez. “They represent a new start and a positive beginning.”
The ceremony was held under the direction of three Buddhist monks who led the gathered crowd in a series of call and response prayers before beginning a peaceful chant.
When the monks concluded their ceremony, the restaurant’s owners, staff and friends laid out a feast of offerings fresh from the eatery’s kitchen to thank the three men for leading the blessing and hopefully, Ms. Martinez said, bring further prosperity to the business.
“We have been very lucky so far,” said Ms. Martinez, who owns the restaurant with her sister, Ampika Kaewdang; her brother-in-law, Phattharaphon Phuetph (an experienced chef who has worked in numerous high-end Thai restaurants throughout the New York area), and other family members, many of whom were able to come out on Monday to celebrate Maya (pronounced MAY-a) Thai’s official grand opening. The eatery itself is named after Ms. Kaewdang’s daughter, Maya, who, at 3 years old, already has a sense of ownership of the place.
“We tell everyone she’s the owner,” Ms. Kaewdang said, smiling. “People have been very supportive, very excited to try different things. This has been a big change for us — we all just relocated here from Queens, so we’re still getting used to the area, but so far, we really love it.”
The family was later joined by Mayor Shelley Brindle, as well as representatives from the Downtown Westfield Corporation and the Greater Westfield Area Chamber of Commerce, for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“It’s so good to see so many new restaurants opening up around here,” Mayor Brindle said. “We’re starting to see some great variety, and Maya Thai is a wonderful addition.”
“We opened a few months ago but we wanted to wait to have our grand opening until our sign was ready,” Ms. Martinez said, noting that like many other small businesses, Maya Thai ran into some supply-chain issues in looking to update its space. The building was formerly occupied by Xocolatz.
“We didn’t have to do too much,” Ms. Martinez said, adding that most of the changes [like the decorative array of statues that the family had imported from Thailand] were made in the main dining room to give the space a welcoming feel and a bit of personal character.
Maya Thai offers a wide selection of regional favorites like spring rolls, dumplings, Pad Thai, fried rice and curries, as well as a number of specialty dishes, customizable plates and vegetarian options.
The BYOB restaurant is located at 235 Elmer Street, Westfield, and is open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner. For more information or to check out the menu, visit mayathaieatery.com.