A Tokyo-style record bar comes to the Fenway
Where to: The Groove, a lounge within a restaurant (Hojoko) within a hotel (The Verb).
Why: Because you love music, cheeky riffs on Japanese dishes, and retro decor reminiscent of a 1970s-era den. The Groove features a collection of vinyl curated by local record stores, live music, DJs, and BYOV nights. (Bring Your Own Vinyl, of course.) It also hosts Berklee talent on Sundays and the Boston Music Awards’ Friday-night “Ones 2 Watch” series, highlighting up-and-coming local acts. Red lanterns and disco balls hang from the ceiling, beaded wood curtains and album covers on the walls; there are lush rugs on the floor, and plenty of cozy couches on which to canoodle as you sip highballs and eat snacks from chef Rob Wong.
The Back Story: Japan is home to obsessive music collectors, and Tokyo’s record bars are their havens: tiny, hidden, individualistic spaces spinning extensive vinyl libraries. Tim and Nancy Cushman, the couple behind o ya as well as Hojoko, are longtime students of Japanese culture and champions of the local music scene. (He went to Berklee for guitar.) It makes sense that they would bring a taste of Tokyo’s underground vinyl scene to Boston.
What to Eat: The Groove’s menu nods to sashimi, then rushes full bore toward creations such as kimcheezy fries (with dashi, queso, and kimchi) and hamachos (nori-dusted tortilla chips topped with torched hamachi, avocado crema, dashi queso sauce, and more). The hamachos aren’t as nacho-esque as I imagined, more delicate smokiness than decadent cheesiness. So much as hint at nachos and that’s the experience I want. The Hello Kitty caviar service has more charm: a spoonful of white sturgeon caviar; a tray of wasabi tobiko, whipped crème fraiche (oddly dense), and scallions; a little pitcher of miso-maple syrup; and buckwheat waffles shaped like Hello Kitty heads. I mean, the caviar’s good, but those waffles are the reason to order this. They’re so cute! Don’t miss the Crispy Nori Sushi Taco Cart, which rolls in just as you think you might be full, plying Groove denizens with taco-shaped seaweed wraps of rice and hamachi or spicy scallops.
What to Drink: Highballs, one of Japan’s most popular drinks. The gin with bittersweet muscat vermouth and yuzu mostly tastes like gin, but one made with vodka, cucumber, and musk melon is pleasantly sweet and fruity. There’s also sake, Japanese beer, whiskey, and Champagne. You’re likely to see couchfuls of loungers downing sake bombs in unison.
The Takeaway: The Groove is a fun outing for music lovers. The soundtrack is great (on a recent visit, it included the Chapells, the Mellow Dawns, and Blind Blake), the mood is relaxed, and there are plenty of intriguing snacks to see you through a round or two.
1271 Boylston St., Fenway, Boston, 617-670-0507, www.hojokoboston.com