The restaurant at 43 MacDougal Street isn’t anyone’s home, but Niche Niche’s concept suggests familiarity. It’s a restaurant that throws dinner parties, putting food and wine world luminaries in the somm seat as they collaborate with in-house chefs to create a cozy vibe with expert planning. In June, for example, guests can expect wines curated by Victoria James of Korean steakhouse Cote, Italy-based writer Katie Parla, editor-in-chief of PUNCH Talia Baiocchi and many more.
Niche Niche was dreamed up by Ariel Arce, who’s also behind the similarly dreamy and conceptual nearby spots Air’s Champagne Parlor and Tokyo Record Club. When I call her on a Tuesday, she’s dealing with “900 deliveries coming in at once” and preparing to open her fourth venue, Special Club, billed as “a return to the musical supper club.”
The native New Yorker has long dedicated her life to Champagne specifically. “To open a wine bar that would really, truly express the world of wine,” she says, “wasn’t my specialty.” In order to properly evangelize for a very varied selection, she wanted to get her community of experts—in everything from natural wines to traditional and every region imaginable—involved.
“We wanted to invite other people from the wine industry to educate us so we could see this larger perspective on the world of wine,” says Arce. “So much of wine gets depleted by trends that are relevant or not, and the beauty of Niche Niche is that a different person from the industry who’s an exceptional professional executes a tasting.”
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And the casual setting is key, mirroring how she herself likes to learn while bringing a bit of sexiness to the staid world of wine tasting. “I wanted to do something that felt more home style, more family-driven. Niche Niche is what I think of as my perfect wine experience: hanging out at home, with a bunch of friends, opening a bunch of different bottles, tasting a bunch of different stuff, eating good food and being in a fun environment.”
A night of various Rieslings is as possible here as a look at the role of texture in wine, and that will expand as the network continues to grow. It began with friends, but now Arce is meeting a broader selection of people who are on board with their mission. They’re each photographed with a Polaroid, allowing for a more permanent presence and reminder in the space of each past hang.
To get in on a Niche Niche dinner party yourself, reservations are suggested but not necessarily required. Wine tastings cost $40, and so does dinner; the latter is optional. À la carte reservations are also available, and guests are allowed to walk in to try anything from the cellar. But of course it’s the full dinner party experience, guided by Arce’s eclectic wine family, that comes recommended.