Photo by Emily Zerella
Courtesy of Tokyo Record Bar
New York City’s cozy Tokyo Record Bar offers two nightly seatings, at 6:30 and 8:30.
This creative Greenwich Village basement restaurant offers 16 diners the opportunity to build the perfect vinyl playlist.
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A small group gathers outside Air’s Champagne Parlor on MacDougal Street in Manhattan, awaiting the first of two seatings at its subterranean izakaya. The hostess quickly takes notice, leading all down a duck-your-head staircase into a quintessential Greenwich Village basement space.
With just 16 seats and a seven-course tasting menu paired with audience-selected playlists, it’s no surprise Tokyo Record Bar plays hard to get. The intimate space—like its equally distinctive upstairs companion—is the brainchild of 30-year-old restaurateur and native New Yorker Ariel Arce.
The Tokyo Record Bar experience is a show in itself, and sliding open the shoji is like pressing “play.” Paper cherry blossoms flood from the ceiling. A taciturn DJ wearing a Conway Twitty hat sorts shelves of LPs just feet from the tiny kitchen where chef Zach Fabian gets his groove on.
The first order of business is taking requests. Diners are greeted by cups of golf pencils and small strips of paper to submit selections from Record Bar’s broad and well-curated vinyl library. There’s Bowie to Beyoncé, AC/DC to Daft Punk, Duke Ellington to karaoke classics. The seating’s playlist becomes a reflection of the crowd that night.
Welcome sake arrives with a trio of snacks: spicy pickled cucumbers, togarashi popcorn, and roasted sesame pepitas. Cocktails and sake are à la carte, the latter listed with a graphical LP-shaped key with intimidating tasting notes.
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