On a late Friday night, a young, excitable crowd has filled up two floors of a new place called NoKal in Poblacion, Makati.
NoKal, short for North of Kalayaan (Avenue), used to be a Mediterranean restaurant called Fig. The place has been vacant until Marco Viray decided to lease it and open NoKal with three other main partners.
Marco and elder brother Joey Viray are behind the craft beer brand Joe’s Brew, as well as the bar Joe’s Place on Poblacion’s Matilde Street, and tempura joint Ebi 10 on Felipe Street (along Tambai Alley).
NoKal is actually a three-story property. The third floor is al fresco—a deck with a simple bar-counter, a sofa set, a few high stools and old wooden barrels as tables.
The second floor is air-conditioned, with a fully stocked bar, lounge seats and a DJ’s booth, where one of NoKal’s business partners, Jason Soong, is spinning the music.
The ground floor, still under construction, will house a restaurant, to be run by another NoKal partner, Raul Fores, son of Malou Fores of Mamou fame.
The fourth partner is Lee Watson.
Meantime, a party is in full swing upstairs—groups of friends dancing to Soong’s peculiar repertoire of contemporary dance beats remixed with classic pop and rock. Soong has fine taste as a young DJ.
Marco Viray, holding a whisky glass, mingles with various sets of friends, until the room gets packed with more party people. He goes up the deck to chat with another group of friends, including chef Alec Santos, who engages us in a conversation about whisky and some interesting new cocktails.
It’s almost 3 a.m. and people come and go in waves. “A big crowd came in later and we had to turn on the lights ’cause nobody wanted to leave,” Viray sends a message the following day. “We closed at almost 5 a.m.” He adds that facilities should be better when NoKal fully opens.