I may not be vegan but when I was invited to a media event celebrating the 2-year anniversary of Invitation V, a vegan restaurant on Bernard, my curiosity was piqued. I dabbled with V when I was younger but back then it was only a phase. 15 years ago, vegetarians and vegans didn’t have the options that are readily available today. There are wonderful things happening in various vegetarian and vegan restaurants today so my expectations for Invitation V were pretty high.
The restaurant’s décor has many mixed elements, most of them interesting. The most splendid element of them all is the natural light that pours in from the wall of windows that face Bernard Street. The bustle of the busy street juxtaposed against the rather ethereal and calm atmosphere of the restaurant creates a fine balance. A row of grey fabric covered, plush banquettes on fine, iron hairpin legs were the most outstanding feature of the restaurant’s décor.
Invitation V is a small space that uses that space wisely by not packing in too many tables but just has enough seating to create the bustle that we crave when we are out. Some of the décor feels a little dated and certain elements are a little distracting (the barstools for instance did not fit with the rest of the décor). That being said, the overall atmosphere of the restaurant has plenty of wonderful elements that elevate the décor and make it feel relevant.
We started the media event off with a cocktail before taking our seats and getting down to business. For the most part, the food at Invitation V was good. We were served a selection of menu items from their appetizer, entrée and dessert menus. We started off with a wonderful potato and leek vichyssoise topped with crusty baguette. The texture of the soup was perfect and the leek flavor really stood out. The next service combined two appetizers; a skewered smoked tofu, maple roasted squash and teriyaki radish and a shitake ball covered in vegan cheese and tomato sauce. We also shared a New York style “pork bun” with crispy smoked veggies inside a tasty sticky bun.
For the main dishes we were served a wonderful mushroom and squash risotto, a bowl of vermicelli rice in a creamy coconut curry sauce with julienne veggies, a signature Invitation V salad mixed with greens, quinoa and homemade hummus and finally a tofu “turkey” breaded with grilled pumpkin seeds and served with Cajun rice and a mango salsa. The vermicelli rice bowl was the standout dish while the risotto came a close second. The signature salad was satisfactory, as salad usually is, and the tofu “turkey” was a letdown. The “turkey” tasted like dried fried egg (I don’t understand why vegetarian and vegan restaurants insist on trying to recreate meat or its texture and taste in their dishes. It’s not meat and vegans have an artillery of foods and wonderful creativity that standout beyond needing to compare their food to carnivore tastes) but the mango salsa was wonderful and the spicy homemade mayo left one of the most interesting and lasting tastes of the night.
The desserts were astounding and definitely a reason to go back. The chocolate kale fusion cake was moist and delicious while the homemade ice cream (from a peanut base) was sweet and mildly addictive. The mango crème brulée was reason enough to want to steal all the rest for the other tables (I think I have a thing for mango). It was very good.
The Invitation V staff was friendly with us, warm and quite courteous. The chef came out of the kitchen on multiple occasions to mingle and chat with us about the food he created. The restaurant has certain elements they’ve mastered in the 2 years since they opened but there’s always room for improvement. Even though we are doing a good job, pushing ourselves to be better is what life is all about and that applies to everything, including restaurants.
For more information on Invitation V, visit their website!
Photo credit: Patricia Brochu
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