Today three generations of women in my family convened at Nancy Go YaYa for brunch. My grandmother, mother, and myself have been eyeing this newer Singaporean eatery for a while now. However, their earlier hours made scheduling time to visit a challenge. I am a fan of Malaysian/South East Asian cuisine due to my up bringing and family heritage, so whenever a new one pops up on the Vancouver foodie landscape, you can be sure that I will be by sooner or later.
During the time of our visit they operated Thursday through to Monday 9-4pm, and where closed Tuesday and Wednesday; with intentions to eventually extend their hours and their menu offerings.
They currently have two options for their all day breakfast and two for their lunch, with a side available under each category. Plus desserts and drinks. As I made my intention to treat the women that came before me, today, I decided to go all out and order everything on this limited sheet. So this is the entire Nancy Go YaYa menu for your reviewing pleasure.
Seating is first come first served in a smaller space, so come early to avoid the line. Although things do move pretty fast and it is counter service. Efficient, but it feels a little off considering how nice this place is, and how it felt very much like a sit down restaurant. But you order at the register and pay. The the food comes out far quicker than I expected. Done in procession, to the point that our little table ran out of room, and we had to use the side table adjacent as housing for non essentials like water and the tissue paper caddy.
The following is in the order in which the food arrived, and not necessarily the order I thought it would for flow of dining: breakfast to lunch. Luckily, I had enough forethought to ask for our dessert to come at the end, when we would ask for it. (I paid for everything upfront: appetizers, entrees, and desserts).
The lunch side of Satay prawn chips with satay spice, and fried curry leaves was pre-fried so was the first to arrive. Tri-coloured chips given the intense flavour profile of salty, tangy citrus. It had a nice crunch, but I couldn’t make out any satay notes to it. Truly I found the seasonings overwhelmed and would have preferred them plain or in a salted egg yolk dust instead.
The Nasi lamak was next. Coconut rice, beef rendang, crispy fried egg, cucumber achar, XO sambal, anchovies, and peanuts. And to it I added on a piece of cereal fried chicken. This was a hearty plate with the nuance of a home cooked meal. The rice was fragrant, the meat chewy with a salty gravy, over seasoned thanks to the shrimp paste. Therefore I preferred the crispy chicken with the set instead. It offered a lighter crunch, even though the edges were burnt. It added a different textural component along with the roasted peanuts. And paired nicely with the tang of the pickled cucumbers.
I truly enjoyed my Teh Tarik, which is a pulled black tea lightened and sweetened with both condensed and evaporated milk. This I found so comforting with the unique flavour I grew up with. Hard to describe, it is a full bodied tea that drank like coffee.
Similarly, my grandmother enjoyed her Kopi, which is Singaporean style coffee prepared with condense milk as a sweetener. This coffee also has a different flavour; much lighter that a North American espresso, with a good roast that came through in its profile.
My favourite dish ended up being the Kaya Toast, which is a modern, more decadent take on that which I am familiar with, and I loved them for the remix. Pandan mochi toast with coconut jam, butter pat, and salted egg yolk. I was only able to make out the unique creaminess of the Kaya (coconut jam) and didn’t get any saltiness or flavouring from the other two fillings listed. Not that the toast needed it. It was plenty tasty and a lot sweet as is. However, I went ahead and added two soft boiled eggs to the dish to make it a set. The tradition is to have said sweet toast with the eggs, self seasoned in soy sauce and black pepper, as a dip. It added the saltiness I missed above, offering a new dining experience with the now soften bread and the pairing of salty soy and sweet jam. I highly recommend trying this one.
By comparison I was not a fan of their puffs. Available in two varieties, I ordered both and was able to get one of each in a set of two. The savoury one was a chicken curry with potato and egg. I didn’t find the filling flavourful enough to overpower the greasy pastry shell. I also wanted a sweeter curry more akin to laksa or spicier than the flat filling we had here.
However the meat option was still better than the sweet vegetarian one. This one was filled with mashed kabocha squash seasoned with ginger and coconut. The flavour was jarring, I found it didn’t fit with the savoury pasty shell. Overly sweet it stood out, out of place. I would pass on this one.
Truth be told out of all the variations of Laksa, the Singaporean version is my least favourite. Spicy coconut shellfish broth, fish cake stuffed tofu puff, beansprouts, turmeric egg, prawns, and house made wheat noodles. It was coconut forward with a warming spice. Not as rich, salty, or pungent with shrimp paste as I am accustomed to and prefer.
The Roti John was an interesting one. I have never encountered anything like this in South East Asian cuisine. It is essentially a very messy Omelette Sandwich with milk bread, curried egg, sweet chilli sauce, herbs, and archar cabbage slaw. It read a little bland so I added on some BBQ pork jerky and it gave the sandwich a firmer chew and some sweetness from its honey glaze. The jerky was definitely a good idea, and the highlight. It stood out against the spicy greens and crispy slaw. The omelette really wasn’t memorable, I would have prefer the sandwich as a BBQ pork Herk sandwich with a fried egg instead.
For dessert, I once again ordered everything and regretted nothing. The Pandan chiffon cake was as tasty as it looked. Layers of airy sponge and Muscovado cremeux, plus a cornflake macadamia crunch “salad” on the side. “Muscovado is a type of partially refined to unrefined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavour” (as taken from Wikipedia). Not overly sweet, it was a great dessert to have with our warm beverages above.
The next two desserts are always available, but with a different flavour day to day, week to week. Each flavour is on limited release, rotating out for another once it is done or completed its run.
During our visit the Kueh of the day is quince. “Quince” is a type of fruit, most similar to a pear. It is a non traditional flavour that topped their coconut glutinous rice dyed blue with butterfly pea flower. Here, the rice was the star of the dish, its texture was a perfect cross between firm and sticky. A subtle flavour that ate like a meal. I truly enjoyed this one, but I am biased as kueh is my favourite type of dessert.
The Sundae of the day was a salted egg yolk, which I am a huge fan of. But unfortunately like all the other salted egg yolk mentions above, I really couldn’t make out its flavour. This was just a really great soft serve that I upgraded by adding on their Chilli anchovy peanut brittle with pork floss topping. The savoury bits changed the game and made this a standout. The sweetness of the cream and the savoury meatiness of the toppings just clicked. Much like fries over ice cream. This is another one I highly recommend, but you must opt in for the topping for the full effect.
In short, if you are looking for traditional Singaporean cuisine, this isn’t it. Instead, Nancy Go YaYa is a fusion restaurant with great modern takes on my favourite childhood dishes. They have done well to make their menu their own, as well as expanding its appeal for a wider audience. I definitely recommend giving them a try, and hopefully with enough commercial interest they will expand their menu sooner than later, and I can return to try their entire menu, part two.
Nancy Go Yaya Eating House
265 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1T8