Singaporean concept restaurant Toast Box, a sister establishment of Bread Talk, closed down all its locations in Manila around 2018. It subsequently returned as Nanyang, sporting a pared-down menu compared to its original iteration. I’m no stranger to the restaurant, having written about one of its now-defunct branches twice (first in 2015, and then in 2018) and dined at its Resorts World Sentosa outlet.
I originally intended to publish a review for the revamped Nanyang in 2020, but this did not push through as I lost my then-mobile phone in 2019. Ironically, that mobile phone contained several pictures from my earlier trips to Nanyang‘s SM Megamall and SM Aura Premier branches. I thankfully managed to recover two pictures of my earlier meals at the establishment from my Instagram account’s archives – with me ordering its Hainanese Fried Chicken Rice during those instances.
Fast-forward to July 2022. Our Texas-based bosses gave us the Fourth of July off, which meant an additional rest day. I decided to leave the house the day before as cabin fever had gotten the best of me again. I opted to visit The Podium in Ortigas Center because it had a Nanyang branch at its fifth level. Thankfully, I did not have a hard time ordering as there were not much people yet when I arrived.
Sticking to the theme of reminiscence, I ordered Nanyang‘s Homemade Nasi Lemak (P248) to start off. For those unfamiliar, nasi lemak is a Malaysian dish consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk, fried chicken, cucumbers, spicy sambal paste, egg, fried anchovies, and peanuts. This happened to be the first dish I ordered from Nanyang after it rebranded back in 2018.
The most noticeable change I found with Nanyang‘s nasi lemak is the chicken cut used. Toast Box Philippines used a chicken quarter – thigh and leg cut – for this dish, while Toast Box Singapore used the wing portion. Nanyang‘s take uses a boneless chicken cut, the same used in its Hainanese Fried Chicken Rice.
Nanyang also took ideas from the home franchise in the Lion City for this iteration of nasi lemak. The egg is now prepared in a manner similar to the Thai dish son-in-law eggs, i.e., hard-boiled then fried. The sides – anchovies, sambal, and peanuts – are now also served separately instead of being mixed together.
Nevertheless, I liked this take on the traditional Malaysian favorite – because it tasted the same when I first tried in 2018. The cucumber slices neutralized the savory overload from the rice, sambal, peanuts, and anchovies. Eating it was no longer a messy experience, thanks to how the egg was prepared and the chicken portion used.
I also ordered the Traditional Kaya Toast (P70) to serve as my dessert; a trip to Nanyang is never complete without trying this one. Toast Box introduced this Singaporean breakfast staple to Filipino palates, and Nanyang consistently upheld its predecessor’s standard. In its early days, Nanyang offered sea salt caramel, vanilla pandan and calamansi citrus kaya spreads. Now, these have been trimmed to two – traditional and honey.
I ordered the kaya toast ala carte, so it did not come with the traditional accompaniments of soft-boiled eggs and kopi prepared in the Singaporean manner. While the kaya toast could be upgraded to include these, rationing brought about by shortages of ingredients made it impossible. Despite that, I enjoyed the sweet and buttery taste of the kaya toast. Authentic kaya has a pronounced coconut taste, but the one used for this toast did not overwhelm the butter.
A thicker version of kaya toast, which uses a thicker slice, is also available in both traditional and honey kaya. Prior to its rebranding as Nanyang, Toast Box offered different variations of “thick toast” – including Milo, Nutella, peanut butter, French (plain butter) and pork floss.
An order of Iced Kopi (P110) prepared in the Singaporean manner washed everything down. This drink can either be served hot or cold, and Nanyang does a good job with both. Kudos to the joint for preparing it consistently since 2015!
The unique thing about kopi is that it tastes different depending on the temperature. When served hot, Nanyang‘s kopi leans towards the strong side with the coffee’s briskness being cut by the milk. On the other hand, it leans towards the more mellow side when cold – with a pronounced sweetness and a smooth, milky aftertaste.
But apparently, most older Filipinos are not used to the sweetness level of iced kopi. The family sitting behind me requested one of the restaurant staff members to add extra water to their beverages.
Even though this review got delayed due to the loss my mobile phone, I’m definitely glad that this pushed through. Three years in the making, and all’s well that ends well as they say.
Until the next post, bon appetit – and to everyone from Singapore, wishing you a Happy 57th National Day today! (Aug. 9)
Apparently, this post has inspired two other Filipino bloggers – both medical professionals too – to check out Nanyang. I’m linking their entries as a way of returning the favor.
Head over to Dr. Wil’s post about Nanyang at Robinsons Place Manila, where he tries out the Nasi Lemak and the Hainanese Chicken Rice.
Meanwhile, here’s Dr. RA’s post about his experience ordering Nasi Lemak from Nanyang via delivery apps.
503B-504, L/5 The Podium Mall,
18 ADB Avenue, Ortigas Center
Mandaluyong City 1555