Since its inception on April 2013, Invitation V on Bernard Ouest has presented itself as a vegan restaurant like no other. Owner David Boigné describes it as focusing on “restaurant” rather than “vegan”: “In my past career I travelled a lot, and in most cities I found there were vegetarian or vegan restaurants that felt like restaurants first — while ‘vegan’ was the style of food they served.”
Montreal has its fair share of vegan and vegetarian dining options, but a significantly smaller proportion of them take reservations or would present a menu that’s welcoming to non-vegetarians. “We hosted a lady’s birthday party here where all the ladies attending brought their male partners,” David recounts. “They did not look happy to be here. They sat with folded arms or suspicious faces. So we tried to engage with them, to suggest they try the onion soup to start, for example, and the burger or pizza for main course. Gradually, you saw the body language change as they genuinely enjoyed what they ate and were curious about the difference vegan made to fat content and general heath. Now the group of men return every month as part of their healthy eating effort. They drink our vegan beer and they have a good time.”
While the welcoming menu makes good business sense and to David is part of the community aspect of owning a restaurant, there is also the ideological motivation behind it. “Of course we are doing this because we believe in the vegan ethic,” says David. “To us, every meal taken without animal products is a victory.” He also points out that it is far easier to engage people on the issue of being vegan when they are in a comfortable environment, eating tasty food. “Most of our clientele is non-vegan, in fact.”
Given the menu options available, there is a high proportion of gluten-free clientele, of customers who have been advised by their doctors to eat differently due to heart conditions, and of families who simply want to show their kids that a meal out doesn’t have to mean a burger and fries. “There is a great benefit to your health from eating vegan,” David says. “Not to mention the benefit to the animals.” All products and source products — including all beer and wine — are vegan at Invitation V, and David estimates about 80% of their products are organic.
The sourcing of products and variety of influences is of great import to both David and his chef. “Our chef worked in vegan restaurants in Toronto so we still source a lot of products there. But we get our vanilla beans for vanilla sauce from Tahiti and the base for our peanut sauce comes from Bali. We use no refined sugar and what little sugar we do use is raw cane sugar,” David explains. “Since the chef and I both travel a lot, there is a lot of culinary influence from different cultures. Our hot-pot, for example — homemade dumplings in a tofu skin — is a signature dish.”
David also credits the chef’s creativity with his background as an engineer. “He has created the most amazing vegan shortcake without gluten, sugar or nuts. He also makes a cashew cheesecake that is immensely popular, and a kale a chocolate cake—to which people have a love-it-or-hate-it reaction!” Whatever your initial reaction to a full vegan menu, Invitation V is worth an evening’s delight.