The first piece of the two-part Filipino venture debuted Saturday, September 30, and the upstairs dining room (Hiraya Restaurant & Bar) will arrive by the end of the year (1248-1250 H Street NE). The project builds upon the success of Filipino chef Paolo Dungca’s polished weekend tasting room that got its start in downtown’s Block food hall. Bite-sized black truffle ensaymada, a crowd favorite during its 2022 pop-up run, gets supersized as a muffin-shaped treat at Dungca’s new cafe.
At Hiraya, fledgling Filipino coffee supplier Sun & Stars shares the spotlight with such pastries and dishes from Dungca, who tapped former co-workers from Kaliwa and Pogiboy to help him cook in the kitchen. The welcoming, 60-seat cafe offers walk-up service from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays to Sundays.
“My personal love for coffee started out with an obsession with latte art,” says Sun & Stars founder Kimberly Lizardo, a baker by trade who’s appeared on Netflix series Sugar Rush. “I’ve always been one to eat with my eyes first.”
While a few cafes in California do rainbow lattes, the colorful creations are rare for D.C. — so she embarked on a year-long mission to perfect them for herself at home.
“I wanted it to be a party in a cup. It’s not a party without cake, so birthday cake was the obvious choice,” she says.
With help from her cousin in the Philippines, Lizardo sources the coffee direct from a farmers co-op in the beautiful small mountain town of Sagada. Her opening house roast at Hiraya, which uses green Arabica beans to start, is lovingly named Kapemilya — a combination of the words for coffee (“kape”) and family (“kapamilya”) in Tagalog. The imported beans are also available in Sun & Stars’ gold-embossed bags.
“We are used to drinking powdered coffee — what we are doing here is very special,” says Dungca.
The food tells Dungca’s story of growing up in the Philippines and the recipes he learned from his mom, aunts, and grandparents along the way — with some modern interpretations sprinkled in.
“I’m always a fan of steak frites when I go to Le Dip or any bistro,” he says.
He infuses Filipino flavors into the classic French dish to turn out plates of “bistek” frites starting at 11 a.m. Calamansi (Filipino lime) unites with tender strips of Westholme Australian wagyu, which gets garnished with caramelized shallots, jam, and crispy onions.
Other mains include Filipino lasagna with sweet bolognese, Gruyere, and black pepper or duck confit adobo, which is blasted with black (instead of regular) garlic for a more “umami forward” take, he says.
Sandwiches served all day include (brisket) egg, and cheese on a laminated bun or chorizo patties and atsara (Filipino relish) between bright purple ube buns — a revival of the eye-catching Filipino burger that landed his fast-casual Pogiboy on the cover of Food & Wine. Filipino breakfast is also an all-day affair and includes a bowl of heirloom garlic fried rice, farm egg, and atsara or soy-garlic marinated short ribs.
“We want to be a chill, all-day cafe where you do your work and enjoy some nice food and coffee instead of being isolated at home,” he says.
After recently realizing he has gluten issues, Dungca carves out room on the menu for gluten-free and vegetarian options. A root vegetable fritter meets both categories with parsnips, carrots, squash, cilantro and a chili-vinegar mayo.
For Hiraya 2.0, Dungca partners with Juan and Jeremy Canlas — the father-son duo behind local chain Supreme Barbeque and Auntea Boba. Hiraya’s culinary dream team includes chef Julie Cortes, who worked with Dungca at Wharf’s Southeast Asian hotspot Kaliwa, and Pogiboy alum Carlos Lorenzo Rufo. Ivan Urcia, who opened Kaliwa with Dungca back in 2018, is Hiraya’s general manager. Dungca says he wasn’t expecting its first weekend to be as busy as it was, with a consistent line out the door each day.
“This was the smoothest opening in my life — everyone was in sync,” says Dungca.
Minibar alum Al Thompson, who most recently led the bar at Lao standard-bearers Thip Khao and Hanumanh, mans an incoming drinks program that goes heavy on tropical elements (think a frozen daquiri comprised of coconut pandan rum, lime, and coconut palm sugar).
Back at the coffee bar, a pumpkin spice flavor goes into its cold brew to capture PSL season at its peak. Lizardo spent the summer developing and testing syrups, which are all made in-house. “I’m actually a pharmacist by training, so it was like one big delicious science experiment for me,” she says.
Lattes loop in traditional (ube and pandan) and unique flavors, like a caramelized banana-and-brown sugar Turon that riffs on the Filipino snack. “We use real bananas, so you don’t get the weird artificial banana flavor at all. It’s so delicious,” she says, of the early hit. Her Champorado latte is Hiraya’s answer to a mocha. She grew up eating the Filipino chocolate rice pudding for breakfast and asked her dad for the recipe.
“We’re all passionate about what we are doing — everything is rooted in substance from the motherland,” says Dungca.