Walking into Oto, a listening room that’s the first of its kind in the Poblacion area, you are enveloped by music. This is a spot for taking a seat and letting the sound waves wash over you.
Conceptualized by EDSA Beverage Design Group and The Curator’s David Ong, along with six childhood friends–Mikey Ang, AA Enriquez, Mark Gosingtian, Miguel and Martin Ledesma, and Martin Punzalan–Oto was inspired by the days they spent hanging out at the Ledesmas’ house. “We’d just listen to music, not even say a word,” Ong recalls. “Sometimes, [we would] sing along.”
The look of Oto, duochromatic and built around details of wood and stripes, fits well with its building’s art-deco exterior. Thanks to Jagnus Design Studio and partner AA Enriquez, who’s also a music producer and sound engineer, Oto’s interiors are actually functional and specifically created to enhance the listening experience—the walls, for example, help reduce the echo. This is further aided by top-of-the-line equipment: two sets of speakers, a custom tube amplifier, turntables on marble, and an extensive record collection.
“You feel like [the music] just goes around you,” Ong says. The best part is, you can actually have great conversations with your friends and not have to strain to hear one another.
Alternating between vinyl and Spotify, and wholly open to requests, Oto’s playlists are all over the place, in a good way. According to Ong, it entirely depends on the crowd at that particular time. “We just listen to what we like to listen to and what we feel our customers would like to listen to,” he explains. “We change it up very, very often.”
Ong muses that music isn’t really something you can charge people for, hence the addition of a bar and a kitchen. Coffee and cookies are great midday treats, but you’re missing out if you don’t try at least one of Oto’s cocktails—although nobody can blame you if you want to have more, as the bar menu is designed so guests would have one drink after the other. “I would argue that it’s probably the best place to get cocktails in the area,” Ong says.
As a key rule, each signature drink has a homemade ingredient: there’s the #ReligionBlack, with rum, lime, homemade black sesame syrup, and shiso; the Hey Brian!, with bourbon, grapefruit, homemade tamarind syrup, and wheat beer; and the Enriquez, with homemade tablea-infused spiced rum, sweet vermouth, sugar, and orange bitters, which tastes exactly like chocolate Twin Popsies.
You can perfect the quality and execution and how it all fits together, but Ong insists that it’s all for nothing without good service. Oto is steadily accumulating a cast of loyal regulars, and they, in turn, are becoming familiar with the team. In the end, Ong says, “It’s always, always, always about the people.”
Photos by JL Javier
Oto is located in 5880 Enriquez, Poblacion, Makati.