Irving’s All-Day Dining was meant to complement, and is the male counterpart of, Café Juanita.” That’s how ob-gyn-turned-restaurateur Boy Vazquez described the eatery he and his son, dermatologist and hair specialist Jun Bormate, opened in December 2016.
The restaurant, which relaunched its menu recently, was named after the vibrant Irving Street in the Sunset district of San Francisco, California—a street lined with cafes, bistros, restaurants and stores from diverse cultures.
Doctor Jun, who studied dermatopathology at the University of California in San Francisco, has fond memories of Irving Street, especially the meals he shared with his sister Emy Bormate-Kintana when she would be in town to visit. The siblings would binge on Thai or Chinese cuisine and buy goods in Asian bakeshops.
That eclectic mix is what Irving’s All-Day dining is about. Its menu has Filipino, Asian and American fare, peppered with innovations, plus traditional dishes interpreted anew the Boy Vazquez way—that is, unique and playful.
I watched him in action when he asked his waiter to tell the cook to slice a thin strip of bagnet and pair it with a piece of slivered green mango, and then wrap it in lettuce.
Nothing fancy, but to combine bagnet and green mangoes, sandwiched in crisp iceberg leaf, looked interesting.
This is Doctor Boy’s magic—the instinctive knowledge of what people want. Creative and detailed, he gets involved in concocting dishes that catch the diners’ attention.
The father-and-son tandem has become adept at serving food that appeals to all ages. Doctor Boy quipped, “We have food to satisfy the Jurassic crowd as well as the millennials.”
He added: “It is my mantra in all my restaurants na dapat mahinhin ang timpla!” Meaning, the cooks should not make the food overly delicious. It has to taste great that the client comes back, but never overly rich that they end up cringing at the memory of the dining experience.
With their distinct management styles, knowing how to please their clients has kept the tandem’s restaurants (Juanita, Haru and now Irving’s) thriving through the years.
Of the breakfast dishes at Irving’s, I loved the Crab Cake Benedict—light and tasty, the hollandaise mild and refined. Delicious!
My super favorite, though, was the Breakfast Inihaw na Liempo. The soft, sweetish pork belly was served with sous vide egg, achara, lightly salted chopped tomatoes, pickled onions, fried bananas and garlic rice. It reminded me of my youth, and of all things good.
The homemade pan de sal with the delicate, curdy-soft quesong puti was sublime. I also enjoyed the tiny and tasty Baguio longganisa.
There is a breakfast sampler that allows diners a taste of all the items.
Among the lunch and dinner offerings, the kansi was a well-balanced, hearty creation. I loved how mildly seasoned it was.
The Crispy Corned Pork Knuckle was flavorful, with the dipping sauce (a spin-off of the crispy pata sawsawan) a perfect match.
All the dishes I sampled had one recurring theme: familiar, simple fare done right, and that hits the spot. They’re the kind of food that makes you want to visit the place again, soon.