A tiny watering hole in Poblacion merges your love for music, coffee, and cocktails
"Music room. Or music lounge? We're still playing around with the name," says Martin Ledesma, one of the owners and managing partners of OTO, an obscure neighborhood hangout at trendy Poblacion. Based on the name (which means "sound" in Japanese), you know where their priorities lie. Martin, along with brother Miguel, are sons of an audiophile. The Ledesmas also own Mann Hann—a veritable name in the food industry well-known for their casual Chinese eateries.
Their pedigree obviously weighs heavily on their investment choices. Being surrounded by like-minded and equally ambitious friends with a nose for what's trending also helped, and eventually they came together and put up a small watering hole—the natural and black wood paneling hint at a a soundwave (the place was done by Jagnus Design Studio)—that best represents their interests. The Curator's David Ong, another partner, is expectedly the coffee and cocktails guru of the bunch. His premium liquor selection at the bar act as the appropriate base for well-balanced concoctions by his finely trained mixologists.
Recommendations? While their signature cocktails are still being developed, we opted for the classic Old Fashioned or a Whiskey Sour for those who prefer the citrusy route. Their Paloma, the Margarita's more refined cousin, is refreshing yet potent, so do approach with caution. To sober up, a trained barista is also on hand for those in need of a proper espresso or cortado.
Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Paloma
But while all their partners have their own contributions to the business, their common passion is music. So consumed are they that a third of their space is dedicated solely to the playing and listening of a prized collection of vinyl, mostly curated by the Ledesmas and their other business partners, Alphonse "AA" Enriquez and Mikey Ang. The group looks mostly to AA for artistic direction since he's a Music graduate from Boston's Berkley College, but he swears they are neither predisposed to nor wary of certain genres. He admits to his own guilty pleasures ("Carly Rae [Jepsen]," he deadpans) and that they embrace all types here. They do welcome song requests, and if you're confident around the serious equipment (their two "horns" are custom made by a supplier, something usually reserved for orchestras), they would probably let you sift through their records and play what you wish. Mikey warns though that they expect you to properly curate a playlist, and not just randomly flip through different genres. "It can't be," he searches for the word, "kalat." AA adds, " since you're sharing the space with other people, the music has to be enjoyable for them, too. I think that's only fair."
With the drinks and the music in their sweet spot, they're now slowly but surely developing a modest food menu to go with everything else. Miguel Ledesma is collaborating with his Enderun mentor Martin Punzalan in the kitchen, where they will be churning out an eclectic mix of booze-friendly dishes. We know so far that there will be a hefty platter or meats- garlic sausage, corned beef, and bacon- with mustard and sauerkraut. Fried chicken is on the agenda as well, and it's going to be crispy with an Asian curve. The accompanying waffles keep it soulful. Of course, any self-respecting man cave should have a large, hunky steak. OTO plans to serve a U.S. Angus tomahawk cooked just the way you like—they're hoping you like it rare and accompanied by a salad, spinach, and baked potato). A red bean panna cotta is a strong contender for the dessert menu. Simple indulgences that should keep you satisfied as you bob your head to the beat.
Chicken and Waffles
Red Bean Panna Cotta
Many bars open without really having a definitive identity, preferring to let the fickle winds of trends and their guests' preferences dictate their course. Refreshingly, OTO knows exactly what it is and prefers to slowly and assuredly execute the owners' collective vision.
OTO is at G/F 5880 Enriquez Street, Poblacion, Makati City.