One of the country’s top bars just partnered with a new chef to shape their future in Toronto


Published June 19, 2024 at 1:08 pm

bar mordecai toronto

An internationally recognized bar that’s been listed on Canada’s and North America’s 50 Best Bars multiple consecutive years in a row has just partnered with a powerhouse new chef to majorly overhaul their food menu and take them in an exciting new direction.

Bar Mordecai has always been known for their cocktails, but partnering with chef Suman Ali Sayed ensures they have a very impressive food program to match. Sayed is from the Arabian Gulf Island of the Kingdom of Bahrain and has called Canada home for a decade, and has worked in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jordan, Chile and across Canada.

But Mordecai isn’t just a standout when it comes to flavour: they’ve also been powerful representatives of and advocates for diversity in hospitality, with majority female and majority BIPOC ownership. That’s an equally important part of what makes the partnership between Sayed and Mordecai a perfect fit.

“Having a culinary partnership with a majority female and majority BIPOC-owned restaurant is incredibly meaningful to me. It completely aligns with all of my other projects and advocacy to empower and accelerate career growth for women,” Sayed tells YourCityWithIN.

“We hope that teaming up like this leads by example and creates a ripple effect of shaping industry standards. When I stepped foot in the industry first, there were almost no women to look up to. This is a change I have always committed myself to work towards.”

Bar Mordecai co-owner Christina Veira and Sayed are both signed to Quell, a talent and consulting agency that works to amplify BIPOC voices and foster collaboration.

“Restaurants and bars are community hubs, places of congregation and celebration. They should reflect the city they’re in,” says Veira. “It’s very dear to me that our bar looks and feels like Toronto, and that includes which identities and communities are included in all aspects: not just ownership and guests but also our collaborators, artists, vendors and more.”

Veira and business partners Emily and Joshua Leblanc sought recommendations from Quell’s roster of food talent, and Sayed expressed interest, which Veira tells YourCityWithIN was “a very exciting and pleasant surprise.”

“Bar Mordecai stood out to me because of its commitment to inclusivity and innovation. When I met with the leadership team we clicked. I could tell that we shared values in terms of their passion for the hospitality industry, and working towards building opportunities for inclusion as well as striving for excellence in each element of the business. I enjoy partnering with people who choose to not just work, but grow and set out newer better standards in the industry,” says Sayed.

“It also allows me to be part of a community that celebrates diversity and empowers underrepresented voices in the hospitality world. It’s not just about the food for me, it’s about creating a welcoming space where everyone feels valued and respected. Food for me is a catalyst to bring people together. Having curated a menu that reflects my heritage and blending that in with our mixed culture city is certainly something I feel very proud to be able to do.”

The new menu at Bar Mordecai has an undercurrent of inclusivity, both in its sharing style of small and large plates, and its intertwining of Bahraini flavours with local ingredients. For example, an Ontario salata combines radicchio, endive and beets with whipped labneh and a sumac sour vin. Varying diets have been taken into consideration with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

“Her food is flavourful, layered and multi-sensory. From aroma to presentation to taste, it’s all there. And, most importantly, it’s not just delicious but food you can revisit,” says Veira.

“Having great food is important but we don’t want our food to be something that you try once. Everything on the menu flows and plays well with each other and moves well from being a casual snack to a full multi-course dinner. Her approach to food, learning and community very much reflects the values we hold within the business.”

That approach has resulted in a menu that feels very at home in a lively bar setting, but also grounded in a strong sense of identity that’s sure to surprise diners as well as please them. Small plates include oysters and sea bream crudo alongside harissa devilled eggs and croquettes with green schug, fennel ranch and daqoos (a kind of Arabic tomato sauce).

Those sitting down for large plates can delve into slow cooked lamb shank, Cornish hen, whole grilled branzino or 18-ounce 45-day dry aged bone-in ribeye, all laden with flavourful spices. Roasted bone marrow is presented with sehaweq, a kind of chutney or salsa with Yemeni origins that’s related to schug and daqoos hot sauces. For dessert, there’s a sweet take on labneh as well as milk cake with rose chantilly, cardamom, pistachio, and qater (a syrup).

“We are going to keep making our guests feel special with genuine hospitality and food that aims to bring people together. The menu concept at Bar Mordecai that I have created encourages the diner to share their food with whoever they are dining. To actually put away cutlery and dining formalities and break bread,” says Sayed.

“I hope everyone who tries it enjoys the elevated Bahraini flavours and how they’re brought out beautifully by the Canadian ingredients. I look forward to planning special menus for events, culinary collaborations and to adjusting the menu seasonally to continuously promote local Canadian produce.”

Whatever is next for Bar Mordecai as they embark on this new chapter, the future looks bright not only for their food menu but everything surrounding it and beyond, including the bar’s goals of furthering diversity and inclusivity.

“We’re very excited to showcase Chef Suman’s work and find ways to grow all aspects of the Mordecai approach to hospitality beyond our four walls,” says Veira.

Photo credit: Jessica Blaine Smith

  1. Bar Mordecai