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July 05, 2011

Out and About: Cactus Club Cafe

Hey guys, I know there's a lot of mixed feelings about this one: There are people who report some of the best food in the city while others have been less than impressed or have stood outside for a long long time trying to get in.. and this is true! It is both great food and notoriously long lines! In fact, I actually had to reschedule my blog on this one because the line at the door was huge! But... it doesn't have to be this way. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Honestly, at West Ed AND on a Friday night, it was wishful thinking on my part too -- take into account the day & time and I think it still falls into the realm of "reasonable". Yes, I agree, they fill up a lot and fast but there are ways to avoid this; for example, go out during lunch when it's almost empty or during a weekday! Hello, Monday lunch! If you're still not convinced, as a tip from my kitchen years, this will payback double when it comes to food quality! Less people equals more time spent making and paying attention to YOUR food equals better food! Chances are: if you're waiting a long time, well, you're going to get rushed service and rushed food and that's just going to make you twice as unhappy. So give yourself a break, plan out a nice weekday lunch and thank yourself later! Or not. Up to you. I'm not going to tell you what to do. This isn't communism! (Just joking!)

Once you get inside though, you can see why they would be so popular! Lively hostesses, great ambiance, soft lighting and background music all come together to set the tone for an upscale dining experience. Throw in some delicious food and North America's largest mall and it's no surprise this place is as busy as it is! Especially considering that this is a chain, I'm impressed! P.S. is it just me or do you love the pinecone lights too?

Overall Score:
Cactus Club Cafe (West Edmonton Mall) on Urbanspoon
What’s IN: Rob's Goat Cheese and Feta Flatbread! Plus, it's new!
P.S. Most dishes with the handy "RF" tag beside them are good choices if you're stuck!

When you're done looking at the pinecone lights and yes, they are mesmerizing, you'll remember that you still have to order food. For us, we landed on the Rob's Goat Cheese and Feta Flatbread, a Short Rib Sandwich, and Butternut Squash + Prawn Ravioli. 

Following the recommendations of our lovely waiter, we ordered the Rob's goat cheese and feta flatbreadgrape tomatoes, caramelized onion, pesto, arugula, balsamic glaze, maldon sea salt. And I'm glad we did! A relatively new item on their menu and a great one, the flatbread was delicious. Crispy on the outside but soft in the centre, it was like biting into a really good pizza crust! Topping that was a goat-cheese-feta mix that was simply divine -- basically a bruschetta: the balsamic, olive oil, pesto, arugula, and tomatoes had great complimenting flavours and contrast! The portion size was also good and well worth the $11!

The short rib sandwich served with sea salt fries - caramelized onions, beef jus and emmental cheese on toasted sourdough - was another tasty addition. The bread was well toasted, giving the crust a satisfying crunch while the meat was decently flavourful with the onions. I thought I also detected a hint of horseradish helping to accentuate the meat and give it a little kick too! As for the fries, they were well crisped and crunchy to the bite, standard fare for sandwiches.

A sumptuous classic since day one, I was actually given a choice on my Butternut Squash + Prawn Ravioli truffle beurre blanc, amaretti, pine nuts and crispy sage with white wine sautéed jumbo prawnsfor scallops over the prawns and I readily consented - I love scallops! As for appearance, they sure hit the wow-factor, there's a piece of fried crispy sage on top of every ravioli! My friend actually likened each of the raviolis to "pasta posing as fried eggs" and it's funny, they kind of look like that! The sauce was incredibly rich and savoury, a tad on the acidic side but very tasty! The scallops are well cooked and the nuts are okay, but the star of the show is definitely the butternut squash. Paired with a leaf of crispy sage, a bite of scallop, and a healthy dollop of sauce, the fresh pasta will have you licking your lips and coming back for seconds! It's a shame they only have 7 pieces! Which brings me to my next point... at only 7 pieces, this dish is expensive - $24.50! - but at the Cactus Club Cafe, they strongly urge you to have three courses: their portion sizes reflect this but it will definitely dig a hole in your wallet over time!

Either way, a great experience and will be back for the flatbread again! Remember to go during the lunch hours to avoid the heavy wait times!

The Verdict! (Lunch): 89/100

1 comment:

  1. Love the butternut squash ravioli too!