© M. Mme
Text: Diane Stehlé
Over the past ten years, the number of vegetarian restaurants in Montréal has increased considerably. For different reasons, more and more people, including non-vegetarians, are looking to reduce their meat consumption. Forget health-nut salads, green vegetables and tofu. Rather, think gourmet, tasty and inventive as the embodiment of today’s vegetarian cuisine. What’s more, it’s served in a festive, gastronomic setting. Here are a few excellent restaurant suggestions.
After opening in 2013, Vin Papillon quickly became a hit with Montrealers. As proof, since it opened, it has more than doubled its seating. Its owners, David McMillan and Allison Cunningham are expert restaurateurs: Vin Papillon is their third establishment, after the renowned Joe Beef and Liverpool House. The place’s formula is tapas-style, with small dishes to share and a menu that varies with the seasons (count four to five plates for two). Always concocted with a bounty of full-flavoured and quality products, the fare is veggie-centric without being vegetarian. The simply fantastic wine list features natural and organic wines meticulously chosen by the sommelier, Vanya Filipovic. Please note that this restaurant does not take reservations.
BAR À VIN M.MME
If M.Mme is a perfect place for after-work drinks with friends or colleagues, it is also an excellent place to eat while sipping fine wine. The French-inspired menu offers diverse dishes that zero in on veggies, without being vegetarian. M.Mme proposes a four-course, reasonably-priced vegetarian tasting menu ($50, or $85 with paired wines). No matter what you choose, Stelio Perombelon’s cuisine is an explosion of freshness and flavours.
The poke (pronounced “po-ké”) is all the rage at the moment. This classic Hawaiian fare is a cubed raw fish salad. At both Kua Loa locations on Union and Sainte Catherine streets, you can choose from a dozen tuna, salmon, shrimp or tofu pokes in a cozy, colourful and playful space. The salmon or tuna California Mama or Papa are exquisite. For those who like it hot, you must try the Black Magic with salmon, nori seaweed and jalapeños. In addition to savouring the freshest possible food, you’ll love escaping the winter weather in the warm atmosphere brimming in both these spots. www.koalua.ca
Located in the Petite-Patrie, this neighbourhood eatery offers a flexitarian menu. It is 80% vegetarian, though it always has one meat and one fish dish on the menu. Chef Marcus is inspired by gastronomy from around the world, with slightly more influence from Mexico. Squash pierogies; pea stew; red pozole with red beans, pepper and corn; potato pancakes with northern shrimp, spinach, grilled quinoa and gravlax; russian kale, etc. The dishes are very varied and always delicious. The atmosphere is friendly with impeccable service. Brunch is also available on weekends.
Local, organic and vegetarian: such is the meaning of LOV, the name of this quaint restaurant in Old Montréal that opened its doors two years ago. Offering vegetarian and vegan cuisine, LOV is ideal for brunch, a quick bite, lunch or dinner. Chef Stéphanie Audet has created an inventive and plentiful menu with sandwiches, veggie-burgers—in particular the very tasty Big LOV Burger—salads, healthy bowls and other delicious food, such as coconut curry, sweet potato gnocchi, mushroom risotto, etc. The restaurant also boasts an organic wine list and original cocktails. The culinary experience takes place in a truly elegant décor by Jean-Pierre Viau and Jacinthe Piotte.
Lola Rosa presents itself as “the favourite vegetarian restaurant for non-vegetarians” on its website. The owners, Éric and Pascal, wanted to create a vegetarian menu inspired by comforting dishes that would be loved by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Their pride is “when carnivores, who eat here for the first time, are surprised that meatless dishes can taste so good.” They must feel that pride often: their nachos, spinach lasagna, burritos, quesadillas, tomato and cabbage Tunisian stew, and mango curry are delectable. The atmosphere reflects this cuisine: simple, natural and comforting. The three locations on Park, Milton and William streets propose slightly different menus, and the one in Old Montréal has a delicatessen and delivery to boot. The Lola Rosa restaurants also offer a selection of local beers, a vast selection of imported organic wines and house cocktails.
Open since 1997, Aux Vivres was ahead of its time in Montréal with its completely vegan menu. Its juice bar, fresh smoothies, soups, veggie pâté, salads, burgers, sandwiches and tasty bowls have made it a must for vegans and foodies. Its Dragon Bowl made with alfalfa, sunflower sprouts, beets, carrots, red cabbage, grilled tofu, brown rice and delicious sauce has become the place’s flagship dish. In addition to the restaurant, Aux Vivres is a vegan product brand sold in many stores across Quebec and online.
INTERVIEW WITH ÉLISE DESAULNIERS VEGAN AND AUTHOR OF LE DÉFI VÉGANE 21 JOURS
Public speaker, Executive Director of the SPCA and author of Le défi végane 21 jours, Élise Desaulniers was the ideal fit to talk to us about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and the reasons that should motivate us to adopt one. LUXE magazine met with Élise just at the end of the latest Vegan Challenge, which encourages people to try veganism for three weeks.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A VEGAN DIET?
First, it saves animal lives. The figures vary depending on calculation methods, but by becoming vegan, you save about 200 lives. It’s also a symbolic gesture that ascribes moral value to animals and affirms that we refuse to exploit them. It’s also a small individual gesture that can have a significant impact on the environment. A vegan emits one ton of CO2 less per year than an omnivore. That’s the equivalent of 5,000 kilometres by car, not to mention the drinking water that it saves on farms. A vegan diet is also good for your health. It prevents certain types of cancer, diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases, among others. Vegans live longer and are healthier than omnivores.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO BECOME VEGAN?
I love saying that becoming vegan is like learning a new language. You have to discover new food, and new ways of preparing it. Developing new habits takes time and we must give ourselves that time. Programs like the 21-Day Vegan Challenge are effective because they’re a bit like immersion. But, you can also replace a few meals per week with vegan options by trying new recipes—even Ricardo has vegan recipes—or replacing meat with legumes in your favourite dishes. Lentil shepherd’s pie is delicious!
HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THOSE WHO THINK THAT VEGANS HAVE DIETARY DEFICIENCIES?
When we look at various studies on the subject, it’s clear that this is not true. There are, of course, risks of deficiencies among vegans, but these people aren’t the ones that are packing our hospitals. The most common deficiency is fibre deficiency, and mostly omnivores suffer from it. Vegans, even those who don’t have a perfect diet, who eat at restaurants and don’t count calories, are healthier than omnivores.
WHAT TYPES OF PROTEINS CAN EASILY REPLACE MEAT?
Legumes, grains, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE VEGAN RESTAURANTS?
I love Café My House in Ottawa, which serves refined and accessible cuisine, Café Dei Campi in Rosemont for its cornettos, Sushi Momo in the Plateau, in my opinion the best sushi in Montréal, Invitation V for the atmosphere and the quality of the fare and everything about Café Frida in Trois-Rivières!