Pizza

Tokyo Record Bar

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What is Tokyo Record Bar?  I ask myself this as Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" pulses through the old school Hi-Fi amplifier.  The needle wags back and forth like a happy dog's tail and I could feel the heat from the tubes with every hit of the kick, or maybe it was the heat of the kitchen I was parked in front of having gotten there early to claim one of the coveted kitchen counter seats for my own. 

Tokyo Recod Bar reminds me of those basement high school parties at your friend's house while the parents are away. This time you don't have to refill the liquor bottles with water and the food is way better, even though there is still pizza.  Located under Air Champagne Bar, Tokyo Record Bar offers two izakaya tastings a night (6:30pm & 8:30pm) followed by drinks and snacks until the wee hours of the morning.

Caviar sushi

Caviar sushi

fish I forget with jalapenos, avacado & hot sesame oil

fish I forget with jalapenos, avacado & hot sesame oil

The tastings are an intimate gathering (only around 16 seats or so), there is no menu other than one for drinks and one for music.  A music menu?  Yes, all the diners a submit song to build the dinner playlist so the ambiance is curated by the you and those eating with you.  You are also encouraged to interact with and talk to your fellow diners.  One of the diners next to me also worked in the hospitality industry so we did some networking.

In addition to the music menu there is a sake menu.  The different thing about this menu were the offerings described by the predominant flavor profile so you do not have to know a name or origin; I found this very handy.  You are able to order by the cup, carafe or bottle. 

boys hard at work

boys hard at work

The experience started with a complementary cup of sake, some flavored nori chips and picked daikon.  Our host introduced herself and the rest of the staff for the evening and then asked everyone to pick a song from the song menu which was categorized by genre.

Once drinks were ordered and songs were picked the host started spinning, delivering music to our ears while at the same time food was being delivered to our mouths.  Starting things off was a fantastic but seemingly simple caviar sushi. Vinegared rice topped with oestra caviar and little crunchy balls of rice to give a little texture.  Another dish was a sashimi of some amazing fish but I forgot what type because I enjoyed myself too much.  It was dressed with jalapenos, avocado and finished with some sizzling sesame oil.

I was one of the first to arrive for the night so I claimed a primo seat at the kitchen counter.Got to love watching those guys hard at work creating fantastic dishes.it's like watching music in motion complete with ebbs and flows in service.

Tempura maitake mushrooms under bonito flakes

Tempura maitake mushrooms under bonito flakes

By far my favorite dish of the night was the tempura maitake mushrooms covered with bonito flakes.  I could eat this everyday for the rest of my life and be happy.  Crunchy and meaty at the same time, you just have to hope they serve this if you go.

The evening ended with a serving of yuzu shave ice.  Texture -wise it was a bit crunchy for shave ice but the yuzu was a nice palate cleanser.  As a parting gift they did a home-made Sicilian style pizza with a square slice for everyone.  This was actually really good with a crunchy crust soft bready insides.

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Pizza Time!

Pizza Time!

For $50 you get 7 Izakaya sized courses, drinks are extra, music is included.  This is not for everybody.  However if you are looking for something different that is interactive, mysterious, intimate and fun, Tokyo Record Bar may be for you.  I enjoyed the surprise of what was coming next (during the reservation process you can notate any allergies).  I enjoyed speaking to my fellow diners.  I enjoyed the interactivity of picking songs and listening to what others picked - the playlist definitely leaned to old school hip hop, soul and funk.  And they email you a link of your playlist so you can relive the memory.  I am looking forward to doing it again and hanging out after dinner next time.

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Mamo

2017 is here and the craziness of the holidays have past.  I am looking forward to sharing more this year and am starting with the first restaurant I have visited this year, Mamo.  Mamo is in SoHo and is an off-shoot of the original in Antibes.  They bill them selves as  Italian hospitality and Provençal charm in NYC.  It is a perfect Italian spot for those looking for a respite from shopping or for someone looking to celebrate a special occasion (they serve lunch and dinner daily).  

Truffle Pizza

Truffle Pizza

As soon as I walked in the door I was greeted and led upstairs.  There is a beautiful bar (with beautiful staff to match) and a well laid out dining room.  Whitewashed exposed brick and ceiling beams add to the warmth and charm of the space.  The tables are a good size, not too close to each other and the chairs are super comfy; all following the white theme.

Rabbit stuffed with foie gras & spinach and gnocchi with a ragu

Rabbit stuffed with foie gras & spinach and gnocchi with a ragu

The menu is varied and something for all palates and restrictions.  The big draw and a transplant from the Antibes menu is the Focaccia al Tartufo (Truffle Pizza!)  Anyone that comes to Mamo has to get this.  It is a white pie with cheese and shavings of truffles, simple yet decadent.  

Their homemade gnocchi came with a meat ragu.  It is a stick to your ribs kind of dish and perfect for the cold night.  The gnnochi were like heavenly little pillows, so light ad they practically melted in my mouth.  The ragu was nicely balanced; meaty with a tiny bit of acidity.

To try something different I went with the leg of rabbit stuffed with bits of foie gras and spinach.  The leg was moist and the added flavor (fat) from the foie gras was nice.  This was a nicely executed dish but the least favorite of the ones I tried.

For dessert I went simple again with some warmed strawberries over vanilla ice cream.  Cream and berries; Perfect.  Finish with a cordial glass of Limoncello and your escape is complete.  

In summary, you have a warm space, congenial service and fantastic execution of simple dishes (which can be hard to do).  Keep Mamo in mind when you are in SoHo or looking for a great place to spend time with friends or family.

MAMO

 

Vandal Restaurant

I didn't want to like this place...

Vandal is a behemoth space in what formerly housed The General restaurant and Finale nightclub.  It calls itself a marriage of "Street Art" and "Street Food" with acclaimed chef Chris Santos (Beauty & Essex, Stanton Social, judge on Food Network's Chopped) at the helm food-wise and the Tao Group doing everything else I assume.  Full disclosure, both Tao Group and Beauty & Essex have been fantastic supporters of hotel concierges, but I'll try not to be a shill.

Vandal is on the Bowery, which is has now become the new happening area of the city for dinner and hanging out.  Like Beauty & Essex, you have to walk through a store of sorts to get to the host, this time it is a flower shop run by the upscale and contemporary florist Ovando.   Beautiful arrangements, but weird place for a flower shop, yes.  Once past Seymour & Audrey you are face to face with the "Front Desk", to the right a gargantuan statue of a pink bunny doing some break-dance move and to the left coat check.  Large murals of additional art pervade throughout the various spaces.  These are curated by Hush, the renowned British street artist.

Steak Tartare on a Pretzel (left), Tuna Crudo (right)

Steak Tartare on a Pretzel (left), Tuna Crudo (right)

There is one large bar that was ridiculously packed with the normal types for a new, hot place; older well dressed and adorned men, younger well dressed and adorned girls.  There are numerous drink options (like I am glad I am not a bartender there so I don't have to memorize all these) and beer by the bottle.  There are two main dining rooms and beautiful "private" room called the Garden Room.  The servers all looked eerily alike, attractive, dark haired women and were very attentive and friendly.  My server happily made suggestions when I asked and I followed her lead.  

Just about everything I had was very good.  I really liked this spicy, vodka based drink I had.  Guess I had too many cause I can't remember the name.  Other highlights were New York Pretzel Steak Tartare; a creative new take on beef tartare with a nod to NYC.  "American?" Kobe beef spread over a large soft pretzel with a smoked aioli and pickled mustard seeds. I did wonder what it might be like if there was a hard pretzel rather than soft to introduce a new texture.  Just the same it was delicious. The Tuna Crudo seems standard, but was very good. The Octopus Hurache was fantastic.  I know it seems like everyone has octopus on the menu these days, but you have to try this one with a roasted green chile sauce.  The grilled Chilean Sea Bass Tacos featured huge chunks of bass, avocado, slaw and salsa.  You getting hungry yet? Save room for pizza.  The next table over ordered the Wild Mushroom Pizza and I totally fell for the power of suggestion as soon as I saw and smelled that pie. It was a perfect thin and crispy crust, topped with mushrooms, cheese and caramelized onions.  Heaven.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about were the Korean Rice Cakes with kim chee.  I really like the idea, but the rice cakes, which resembled gnocchi, were just too gummy for my liking.  I might actually try this dish at home with gnocchi instead. I wanted to have dessert but I was too full of all the delicious food I did have.  I will be back, there is a lot more on this menu that covers the whole world that I want to try.  

Wild Mushroom Pizza

Wild Mushroom Pizza

Once you are done with dinner Vandal wants you to continue the party downstairs in their lounge.  An undulating bar is the focal point of the room with chaise lounges built right into the bar so all one needs to do is reach behind them to receive a drink from a cocktail professional.

As I was leaving, it all came together for me: drinks, dinner, more drinks, hopefully a hookup and as you leave buy a flower for that lucky girl or guy.  Tao has thought of everything and covered all the bases.  Like I said I didn't want to like it it because of how popular it will be, but I did like it, a lot and I will be back for more.

VANDAL