8464 Kalayaan Avenue, Poblacion, Makati City
Open from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Sunday to Tuesday) and 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. (Wednesday to Saturday)
(SPOT.ph) Those who have seen the photos on their Instagram might be a little confused by the bright interiors that’ll greet you when you enter NoKal. Nope, you’re not lost. It just so happens that NoKal has three different floors, each with their own look and vibe.
What holds them all together is their shared connection to New York, which is also what brought together friends and owners Raul Fores, Amado Fores, and Marco Viray. “We really became close with each other in New York,” shares Viray. “So we thought, why not make NoKal New York-themed?”
The theme starts on the first floor, with diner-inspired fluorescent lights and a linoleum counter—it’s the perfect hangout for post-drink munchies. Climb up the narrow staircase to the “hidden” second floor, and find yourself transported to a speakeasy-like area, with dim lights, dark-wood décor, and an over-all moody, sophisticated vibe. The rooftop level is transformed into a beer garden, with craft beer from Joe’s Brew (also owned by Viray) on tap and lots of lush greenery.
New York also inspired Raul, who is also the chef at NoKal, in creating the menu. There’s the Cheeseburger (P295)—their version, which Raul shares is “a cross between Shake Shack and In-N-Out,” is as classic as it can get with two smashed beef patties, melted American cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes between two soft buns. Somewhat similar but not quite to the Cheeseburger is the Chopped Cheese (P295), which the owners share is inspired by a New-York bodega’s creation. “I like to explain this as for when you want a cheeseburger to go,” says Raul. “We just wrap it up and then you can eat it like a sub.” The sandwich does have pretty much all the elements of the cheeseburger, but chopped up between a soft roll—you get the cheesy, savory flavor of a burger but the texture adds to the flavor’s intensity, too.
Surprisingly, you can also fill up on hearty, tasty dishes at NoKal. The Longganisa Mac (P295) is sure to be an automatic favorite—after all, who can resist creamy cheese pasta? But Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (P320) will win you over with an overflowing platter of al-dente spaghetti noodles, giant cheese-topped meatballs, and a meaty tomato sauce with just the right tang and herby flavor to bring you back to your mom’s kitchen.
In the mood for rice? Have the NoKal Steak Rice (P295) with an unbelievably wallet-friendly price, especially when you consider that you get chunks of USDA-grade steak on top of steak rice cooked in a savory, peppery sauce that’ll remind you of a food-court favorite.
What you’ll probably get addicted to are the Hot Wings (P200). “It's supposed to be similar to Southern Hot Wings,” explains Raul. “Normally you would use chicken fat, but we didn’t have enough chicken to render the fat out of so we substitute butter.” It’s a happy accident—the butter gives the chicken wings finger-licking richness while the mix of paprika, Sriracha, and Tabasco give off just the right amount of heat to tickle your palate without burning off your taste buds.
Throughout the evening, NoKal—especially the second floor—transforms into a fun dancefloor, with
Photos by Hans Fausto