A snapshot of Sap, O&B’s Canadian comfort food restaurant

A snapshot of Sap, O&B’s Canadian comfort food restaurant

Executive chef Ryan Lister curates a colourful menu driven by local and seasonal ingredients

Classic Canadiana finds a modern twist at Sap, Oliver & Bonacini’s 12-year-old eatery in Toronto’s downtown core. Previously named Bannock, the 4,000-plus-square-foot space at Queen and Bay rebranded in late 2021, maintaining its emphasis on highlighting Canada’s regional and cultural diversity by way of creative comfort food. “Canadian cuisine is inspired by the different cultures woven into the fabric of this country,” says executive chef Ryan Lister. “Our menu pulls from many of these cultures and emphasizes the use of locally grown ingredients—this, to me, is what truly defines Canadian comfort food.” You can still find some of Bannock’s popular dishes, originally created by O&B corporate executive chef Anthony Walsh, on Sap’s menu today, including the beloved Arcadian Court Chicken Pot Pie and Duck Poutine Pizza. Lister’s creative imprint, however, is more than evident in the funky new bar bites and playful, colour-bursting entrées.

Name: Sap
Contact: 401 Bay St., saprestaurant.com, @saprestaurant
Neighbourhood: Old Toronto
Owners: Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality
Chef: Ryan Lister
Seating: 84-seat dining room, 36-seat lounge, plus an outdoor patio that seats 18
Accessibility: Fully accessible 

The Food

According to chef Lister, there was an overwhelming plea from staff to include a mac and cheese on the rebranded food menu. “But I wanted to offer something less traditional,” he says. Caramelized onions, Quebecois cheese curds and a rich creaminess make up Sap’s French Onion Mac & Cheese.

Sap delivers on the decadence you’d expect from any comfort food menu, but revives the concept with a symphony of fresh, hearty ingredients that will leave diners feeling nourished. Chef Lister’s menu works and changes with the seasons, telling a story of Canada’s agricultural landscape in every bite. “We built our menu with the priority of working with 100km Foods, a food distributor in Toronto that aims to source everything within that range of the city,” says Lister. “It allows us to showcase what’s in season, support the local economy and emphasize the importance of knowing where your food comes from.” This season, Saskatoon lentils, summer squash, tender organic greens and Canadian cheddar make up some of the most popular menu items across the regular and weekend brunch menus—as well as a curated Summerlicious menu, available now through August 28. 

The Pork Shoulder Tourtière is served with green salad and pickles, “which cut through the richness of this dish and the duck fat potatoes on the side,” says Lister. This hearty meat pie is also sold packaged and frozen, part of an offering born out of the pandemic that encourages customers to enjoy Sap at home.
One of the most eclectic food items on the menu is undeniably Sap’s Clamato Fries. This fun play on the Canadian Caesar incorporates all of the cocktail’s powerful flavours, blending spice, tanginess, crunch and a salty satisfaction. This is Lister’s favourite item on the current menu.
Nothing on Sap’s menu embodies the Canadian spirit quite like its Maple Glazed Salmon. Inspired by Lister’s experience working alongside Indigenous chefs from across the country, the fish is presented on a Three Sisters succotash. The medley of corn, pea shoots, summer squash and fresh beans represent the seasonal harvest across Ontario, and balance the crispy salmon skin delivering a sweet and salty punch.
Made-from-scratch chicken gravy brings a simple poutine recipe to a whole new level. Served alongside Sap’s ‘Torontréal’ Smoked Meat Sandwich, this Ontario-Quebec fusion dish is at least one thing fans of the Leafs and Canadiens can agree on.
Highlighting some of the best ingredients the Prairies have to offer, Sap’s 100km Great Plains Bowl is fresh, vegan comfort food at its finest. “This dish is a celebration of the Canadian Prairies,” says Lister. “Lentils, soy beans, chickpeas, quinoa and tender greens are served with a sumac tahini for a satisfying and nourishing dish you can sink your teeth into.”
Crusted with sugar, cinnamon, and a buttery oat crumble, the Niagara Peach Crisp is a scene stealer, no doubt. Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this Summerlicious debut is planned to stay on the menu year-round.

The Drinks

Sap’s Rosemary Tom Collins

A list of boozy and spirit-free cocktails curated by general manager Sarah Minard compliments the adventurous flavours of Sap’s food menu with a classic and down-to-earth appeal. “The food at this restaurant is very bold so you can’t have something too powerful,” says Minard. The Rosemary Tom Collins serves up gin, lime juice, soda, Sap’s signature rosemary simple syrup and a lime wedge to garnish. It’s refreshing, citrusy and approachable. In the spirit of remaining as sustainable as possible, you’ll find plenty of seasonal ingredients pulled from the food menu as inspiration for Sap’s signature drinks. “We use aquafaba instead of egg whites in our blackberry sour because it’s more readily available in our kitchen,” says Minard. “I work closely with chef Lister to determine what’s going to be in season and how that can inform our evolving cocktail list,” she adds. “At the end of the day, the more in-season ingredients you use, the better your food and drinks will taste.” A Canadian-forward draft beer and wine list round off the regional theme, from an apricot wheat ale to a crisp Niagara Chardonnay. 

The Space

A room decorated in warm wood tones and a 24-foot-long Carrara marble bar complete the “cottagecore” look. Adding a dose of cosmopolitan flare, the floor-to-ceiling front windows brighten the space with views of passersby and Old City Hall, and the buzz of Eaton Centre shoppers. With dimly lit rattan light fixtures and wide-frame armchairs sporting the iconic HBC stripes, Sap is equal parts Canadian-chic and Canadian comfort food. 

Click here to explore Sap and book a reservation today.