You don’t go on a cruise because it’s the quickest way to Alaska. You go for the opportunity to eat a lot, swim in an undersized pool, and stare out at the ocean while you pretend that you’re the ruler of a big blue world where parties start at a reasonable hour and television seasons never end. In other words, it’s an experience - just like Tokyo Record Bar.
Tokyo Record Bar is in a basement in Greenwich Village, and it has either two or three seatings per night, depending on the day. Each involves a seven-course tasting menu (which costs $50 per person), served in a little space that looks like something you’d find down an alley in Shibuya. It’s perfect for a more-creative date night, and it’ll impress any friends or out-of-towners who, at some point in their lives, started believing that you’re the sort of person who does interesting things.
Once you get seated here, the first thing you do is help make the soundtrack. A server hands you a brochure with around 100 different records, you pick a song or two, then the DJ takes everyone’s selections and turns them into an all-vinyl playlist. Expect to hear everything from Biz Markie to Patsy Cline, and know that even if you pick some ABBA or “Nuthin’ but a G Thang,” you will experience nothing but the love and support of your fellow diners.
Around the same time that the playlist begins, your first course will arrive, and it will probably be a piece of caviar sushi. The food here is Japanese izakaya-type stuff - oysters, salmon sashimi, and, toward the end, something like monkfish or pork belly. The first few dishes will probably be better than the rest, but you still won’t hesitate to finish anything as you sit and observe the scene around you.
A meal at Tokyo Record Bar is almost like a form of interactive theater, and there isn’t really anything else like it in NYC. It might not be the absolute best food in the city - but that’s also not the point. You don’t just come here to eat. You come for an experience that’ll make you realize that both David Bowie and Beyoncé were always meant to be listened to in a dark basement on MacDougal Street where there are cherry blossoms on the ceiling and anthropomorphic foxes painted on the walls. Much like a cruise to Alaska, it’s about the trip. And the slice of pizza they give you at the very end also doesn’t hurt.
A pile of caviar on rice. You’ll eat this in roughly two bites and immediately want another.
Good, fresh oysters. Like the caviar sushi, you’ll get one of these, finish it quickly, then wonder what life would be like if you had more.
The best thing we’ve tried here. The salmon itself is high-quality, it’s dressed well, and the fish eggs provide little bursts of added flavor.
If you’ve had tempura, you know what to expect from this. It’s essentially a great bar snack, and the bonito is a nice touch.
Near the end, you’ll get a slightly bigger dish. We had monkfish, and it was good. Not life-changing, but we enjoyed the spicy cabbage underneath.
If you had edible flowers at home, you could probably make this. But you don’t have edible flowers at home, so just sit and be happy with your fancy chocolate pudding.
At the very end of your meal, you get a slice of pizza. They do this because they know that tasting menus sometimes leave you hungry, and it’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for us.