After online backlash, Montreal restaurant owner promises to change offensive menu items

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By Iman Kassam CTV News Montreal Videojournalist and Adam Kovac CTV News Montreal Digital Reporter

The owner of a Montreal Vietnamese restaurant apologized on Monday for menu item names that have have called offensive.

Pho King Bon opened in Rosemere earlier this month, turning heads with its provocative name. Numerous menu items aslo involved a play on the word “pho,” to vulgar effect.

The wordplay quickly drew attention. On Facebook, many comments have criticized the restaurant for disrespecting Vietnamese culture and an online petition calling for a boycott of the restaurant has been signed over 6,000 times.

Owner Guillaume Boutin called the names a marketing strategy.

“It's my culture,” he said. “I've been eating pho for the past 25 years, every week, at least once a week.”

“It's not about culture, it's totally different. The names that we've put out, or the name of the restaurant and all this, it's just to make people laugh. There's nothing personal against any community.”

But it wasn't just the vulgarity that people upset. The petition singled out a drink dubbed the Viet Cong.

The Viet Cong was a communist-led army and guerilla force in South Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s, which carried out executions and mass killings.

“All the menu, everything we have done, I have Vietnamese friends who participate in the deliberation of the menu and concept and in the play with words and everything,” said Boutin.

But on Monday, Boutin said he understands the concerns of the Vietnamese community and will be changing the names of some of the more offensive menu items, including Viet Cong.

The owner wasn't entirely sorry, saying he didn't think the changes are necessary and calling online comments and reviews against his restaurant “hate speech.”

Boutin did not say when the menu's new names would go into effect.  

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