YAYA is a cozy brunch spot located in a neighbourhood already brimming with places to get your eggs benny fix. But YAYA manages to distinguish itself with a menu inspired by a multitude of cuisines ranging from Mexican to Italian to Greek and beyond. The dishes also feature unique twists to traditional brunch fixtures.
With the exception of the big-screen TV mounted on a wall playing a video of a burning fireplace on loop, the decor is pretty muted. The furniture and walls are mostly monochrome. There are 12 tables and enough seating to accommodate 34 people.
Eggs benny is my go-to choice at most brunch restaurants, so that's the first thing we order. There are two benny options here. I opt for the YAYA Classic Eggs Benedict ($14) which comes with two poached eggs and peameal, with a side of homefries.
It's somewhat of a misnomer; it's not "classic," per se. Here the traditional English-muffin base is substituted with cheddar cheese biscuits made from scratch in house. And the Hollandaise sauce is a concoction of swiss and sharp-cheddar cheese mixed with butter and milk - a contrast to traditional Hollandaise which is usually made with egg yoke.
The biscuits themselves are a bit dry, but the eggs with their runny, flavourful yolks - which are a gorgeous vibrant orange - make up for it. I'm a sucker for traditional Hollandaise, but I actually quite enjoyed this cheesy alternative.
On the lunchier side of the spectrum (yeah, I know "lunchier" is not a real word), we feast on The All American Burger ($12). It comes with an extra-lean ground beef patty (for which you can request the doneness), sharp cheddar, garlic aioli and caramelized onions between a brioche bun from ACE bakery.
I was skeptical of the "extra-lean" aspect; in my mind, lean meat makes for a dry, bland burger. But to my surprise, this burger was very flavourful. Maybe the leanness was offset by the aioli, or the fact that I ordered my patty a tad pink so that it wouldn't be dried out, or that the meat was nicely seasoned. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
We finish our meal with the Stuffed French Toast ($12). ACE challah bread is stuffed with mascarpone cheese, vanilla bean-laced ricotta, and lemon-lime zest. At the time or order, the toast is then dipped in eggs and milk before being baked.
If there's one thing I'll come back for, it's this dish. The vanilla is on the cusp of being overpowering, but it's not; the cheese and the subtle hint of citrus balances it out.
It's worth mentioning that there's also a $5 menu. Notably, a glass of wine and a pint of beer are on this list. $5 booze at a restaurant? Yes please.
Also, although it's not listed anywhere, there's a tray of generously-portioned house-made baklava near the cash register, which go for $5 each.
Owner-chef Christina Panagiotou wanted to offer some more affordable options to offset the more-expensive items on the regular menu, which are priced as such because the restaurant uses only high-quality ingredients. Their produce comes from the Big Carrot and their proteins are all free-range as well as antibiotic- and hormone-free.
Although there's no shortage of brunch options in Leslieville, in my opinion YAYA holds its own.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.