This February, Ariel Arce will open what she calls “a dinner party restaurant” at 43 MacDougal St., at King Street, in Soho. Each night at Niche Niche, a different wine expert will showcase four different wines paired with a menu to match. Diners will sit communally and learn about each wine with each course.
“If you’re going to someone’s house [for dinner], and they really like wine, over the course of the evening you’re going to open a couple of bottles, taste them, talk about them, and they would give you a little info and tell you why they like them,” Arce says. “That’s the story here, except that person hosting happens to be a professional in the wine community.”
Accordingly, the 25-seat room — designed and built by Arce and her co-owner and father Billy Arce — is fashioned after a house with an open kitchen that overlooks seating. One night, for instance, could bring wines from a specific Italian region paired with an Italian menu from Tokyo Record Bar chef Zach Fabian. Other evening themes could be Sound of Music and wines of Austria, 1960s country club, or women in wine. Four four-ounce pours is $40, and dinner is an additional $40, separated so people can come in just to go for wine.
Monthly calendars will show who and what wine will be spotlit each night, with two seatings at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. After that, the space turns into an a la carte wine bar. Like Tokyo Record Bar, it’s intended to be a communal experience, Arce says. “In a perfect world, I would love the entire room to be friends by the time the night is over,” she says.
As with Arce’s Air’s Champagne Parlor, which hides Tokyo Record Bar underneath, there will be a second venue underneath Niche Niche. Called Special Club, it’s fashioned after old-school music and social clubs like Stork Club. The idea is that people can go, sit down, and listen to live music for a $40 cover.
“We’ve gotten really far away from spaces where you can go and listen to live music, but also still engage with the person you’re there with,” Arce says. “That’s why I’m calling it a return to these old social clubs.”
The 45-seat space will have a wine list, beer, and sake and shochu cocktails alongside retro snacks with modern Asian flair, such as a razor clam cocktail. Seatings are at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., and beforehand it’s a bar space with no cover.
Arce has had a hand in several bubbly bars in NYC and Chicago, including Pops for Champagne in Chicago and now-shuttered New York sparkling sanctuaries Birds and Bubbles and Ravi DeRossi’s Riddling Widow.
Niche Niche is expected to open mid- to late-February, with Special Club to follow a month later.