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Acclaimed Filipino Pop-Up Hiraya Secures a Permanent Home on H Street NE

Chef Paolo Dungca brings the Northeast strip an all-day cafe and upstairs tasting room next spring

Cassava cake with crab fat, lardo, and red caviar will make an appearance at Hiraya 2.0.
Will Blunt
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

A huge new Filipino restaurant for H Street NE will build upon the success of Hiraya, chef Paolo Dungca’s polished weekend tasting room that recently ended its pop-up run at the Block food hall downtown.

Dungca just secured a permanent, two-level location for Hiraya across town, with plans to open next spring (1248-1250 H Street NE). For Hiraya 2.0, Dungca partners with Juan and Jeremy Canlas — the father-son duo behind local chain Supreme Barbeque and Auntea Boba. The team currently collaborates on a fall Filipino menu out of Supreme’s Annandale, Virginia outpost.

Hiraya’s next iteration will offer separate menus and atmospheres on each floor. Upon entry, Cafe Hiraya will operate as a sun-drenched destination for Filipino pastries, breakfast sandwiches, vibrant lattes made with ube (purple yam), and brewed-to-order teas from Auntea Boba. Dungca says the casual, all-day level will also specialize in silog — a Filipino morning staple comprised of sinangag (garlic fried rice), itlog (runny egg), and protein like longganisa sausage.

“Stuff we enjoy eating — something accessible and easy with Filipino and Asian flavors,” he says.

The upstairs setup will resemble the upscale original, opening with a la carte small plates to start and a prix-fixe option down the line. (“Right now staffing is the big issue. We want to get comfortable with the space first,” he says.)

Empanada kaliskis with Filipino-style tocino (pork shoulder), Maine lobster, and curry mayonnaise at Hiraya.

Over its brief, nine-month run downtown, Hiraya’s elegant, eight-course menus ($95 per person) paid homage to Dungca’s native Philippines, growing up in California, and chefs he met along the way. Foie gras and shrimp dumplings, for instance, spoke to his time at Baltimore’s Nihao with chefs Peter Chang and Pichet Ong. Small plates also showcase seasonal ingredients like Path Valley Farms asparagus, sea grapes, and Maryland blue crab. Hiraya served its last meal at the Block in October as the team shifted gears towards locking down the new 4,700-square-foot lease.

The prominent corner building was previously teed up to be an all-day diner, but that tenant’s plans fell through in 2018. The space is relatively turnkey ready, thanks to a preexisting hood already in place. Team Hiraya toured the space in September and “fell in love,” says Dungca. Ulsaker Group’s Erik Ulsaker and Shadi Ayyoubi repped Hiraya in the off-market deal.

“We’re all fans of H Street. My wife and I used to go to Maketto a lot during its early days. I just always enjoy the neighborhood,” says Dungca.

Right across the street, Maketto partner Keem Hughley is close to opening a visionary Afro-Caribbean restaurant called Bronze in the old three-story home of Smith Commons. On the same Northeast strip, a rising Filipino chef runs year-old Balangay out of Bullfrog Bagels.

Durian Ginataan soup with delicata squash and pepitas at Hiraya.

Dungca hails from the city of San Fernando in the Pampanga province northwest of Manila and migrated to Los Angeles with his family when he was 13 (his first culinary gig was washing dishes at Disneyland). After moving to D.C. in 2014, he quickly worked his way up the ladder at some of D.C.’s most influential restaurants (Vidalia, Bad Saint, Restaurant Eve, and Kaliwa, and ABC Pony).

Hiraya’s pop-up perch at the Block represented his anticipated return to fine dining during the pandemic. One level below, Dungca continues to run fast-casual counter Pogiboy with fellow Filipino chef Tom Cunanan. The Block is also home to acclaimed Asian sweets shop Rose Ave Bakery, which will relocate to bigger digs in Woodley Park soon.

Unlike Hiraya’s first edition, which was outfitted in glam gold leaf decor and soft pink seats, Dungca plans to play up lots of wood elements and rattan tones that are more reminiscent of his native Philippines. Interior construction is expected to start next month. The upstairs level will feature a full bar and dinner service from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Dungca’s fall menu collaboration with his new partners at Supreme Barbeque has proved to be so popular, it’s now here to stay. Now the Annandale location will soon rebrand into a new spot called Sari, says Dungca, with dishes like pork ribs tocino and smoked chicken insal with acharra and chili-vinegar. Here’s the new logo: