Vinyl, Sake, Snacks: NYC's Tokyo Listening Room

Vinyl, Sake, Snacks: NYC's Tokyo Listening Room

By Erica CampbellMay 15, 2024

From a rapper’s grandiose penthouse delight to the sleaziest dive bars spinning vinyl, PAPER is giving you a first-hand look into the Big Apple’s most hype-worthy music experiences in Seriously, What Are You Doing? — straight from the music editor's mouth. Are you or someone you love feeling restless in the city that never sleeps? Here’s what you should be doing (seriously!).

Neon, sake, vinyl and friends — sounds like the perfect evening, right? Well in that case, may we invite you to Tokyo Listening Room, a new concept from the folks that brought you Tokyo Record Bar, where you can listen to DJs, nosh on delectable delights and get a bit buzzed on sake, all from the cozy comfort of a small restaurant in Greenwich Village where bubbly date spot Air’s Champagne Parlor used to be located. On the night PAPER stopped by, we were surprised by how flavorful the menu was (somebody ate way too much seaweed salt and chili powder flavored popcorn, but that’s really not what this article is about) and the mix being spun was very Nine Inch Nails meets ‘90s hip hop.

Look, it ain't always easy for a girl who likes music to get to hear said music at a reasonable hour while also digging into a good menu, but Tokyo Listening Room seems hell-bent on making that possible, and for that, I am grateful.

“The listening room came after seven years of Tokyo Record Bar being open and us wanting to expand into more DJ-based programming,” Ariel Arce, owner and partner, tells us. Their Tokyo Record Bar location, which is downstairs in a bit of a basement under the record bar, felt “limited” because of its “prefix set menu and vinyl jukebox,” and the new upstairs addition makes it possible to order à la carte, making for a chiller, pick-your-own-adventure option.

“We want people to be able to hang and have some fun snacks make a meal out of the menu or just have some drinks on their way before or after a night out,” Arce adds. “Our menu is comprised of a large selection of champagne that we had from Air’s Champagne Parlor, a robust sake list from our downstairs restaurant and a soon-to-be full liquor license cocktail menu that’s coming almost any day now.” So yes, you can expect cocktails, a list of small bites you can keep snacking on 'til you’re more than full. (I heard a rumor that someone overdid it on the Japanese potato salad, but could just be a rumor!)

But the best part, for me anyway, is the way they’ve set up their music programming, making it approachable for people seeking any genre and of course, up and coming DJs who need a place to spin. “[The experience] changes every night depending on the DJ,” Arce says. “We have a lot of people that we work with constantly who range from funk, soul, blues, jazz and house music and we’re constantly trying out new DJs who have all sorts of different sounds. You should want to come with an open mind and feel comfortable to stay, and hopefully, hear a song or two that they recognize and be swept up in the music and energy. We have a really lovely clientele so our DJs feel like they’re in a pretty safe space to explore and express themselves. It’s a small room, and we’re constantly tweaking and tinkering with the sound to make sure that each DJ feels like the vibe is just right.”

The spot will soon be rolling out a specialty cocktail list which will likely lead to more sips, more spins and more me mixing champagne and sake. See you there?

Photography: Michelle Paradis