I have to admit it. I don't mind Cactus Club. Sure, it is a chain restaurant. Yes, it's not exactly cheap and it's a lot of style over function. Yet, I can't deny the food is generally pretty good. Before its transformation earlier in this century, Cactus Club was a one our usual dining destinations. It was a great place to meet up with a large group of friends where we would dine on reasonably-priced casual food. Well, it ain't all that casual anymore and the prices have gone up significantly. The food and prices took another leap as Rob Feenie entered the fray. With everything, there is a correlation between the price and what you get. What you do get
now-a-days at Cactus Club is a combination of "better" chain restaurant food with attractive staff and decor all served in a trendy environment. As mentioned, I like my dives; but I do like appreciate the trendier joints as well. I find it unfair that people complain about certain restaurants when they refuse to accept what they are. In other words, if you don't like trendy and don't want to spend the money, then stay away. No one forces you to eat at these places. And if you do, consider everything that the restaurant offers and then make a judgment. They have their target market and they do a good job
serving them. They wouldn't be in business otherwise. Okay, enough ranting from me...
So this was the case after Friday hockey this time around. Most people were not wanting to do the late night Asian food in a dump thing again. Thus, we headed over to the Lougheed location of Cactus Club. We used to hang out at this spot all the time after hockey because it was convenient. Now, we hadn't been here in awhile and they have done some renovations. The place is really swank and now has the prices to back that up. Call it the Rob Feenie excuse - a reason to charge more! And about Rob Feenie, one of his better creations is The Burger. Simple in name and if you think of it, simple in terms of ingredients, it is somehow a great burger. Consisting of aged cheddar cheese, cured bacon, sautéed mushrooms and red pepper relish, it has a little of everything. From the saltiness of the bacon, Earthiness of the mushrooms to the zing of the relish, it is solid offering. I didn't have it this time, Silent Bob did the honours. He pretty much echoed my thoughts except with much less words...
For myself, I BBQ Duck Clubhouse which was comprised of bbq duck, pan seared chicken and crisp prosciutto on pecan fruit bread. This was definitely a different take on a clubhouse. I found the meats to be somewhat dry, which made it slightly chewy. I did like the flavours though. It was a good combination of duck flavour with salty prosciutto and the sweetness from the bread. It was decent; but not as good as I envisioned it to be. Sweet Tooth had the Prawn & Scallop Spaghettini, which I've tried before. Much like my past experience, the dish itself was quite good. With al dente pasta in a fresh-tasting and well-balanced tomato sauce, there is not much to complain about. Well, there is one thing though. For $20.00, it is not exactly a good value. Don't get me wrong. There are scallops and prawns which are cooked up perfectly. However, there are not many of them. Good; but too pricey.
On a separate visit, I tried another Feenie creation in the Short Rib Sandwich with caramelized onions, beef jus and Emmental cheese on toasted sourdough. An updated take on a beef dip, except with tender rich-tasting short rib, I liked it. Yet honestly, it is pretty hard to mess up braised short ribs! Yet on another visit, I had the Fish Tacos which were also very good. I liked how the grilled fish was not "wet". On the other hand, it was not dry either being moist and flaky. Loved the spice rub which gave the fish some bite. Combined with the remaining ingredients, there was some crunch as well as some freshness. With Sweet Tooth in attendance, it was a foregone conclusion that she'd go for a dessert. She went straight for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bar with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and crunchy chocolate pearls. Alright, I'm not a huge sweets guy, but I did like this one. Much like the one I've had at EBO, the chocolate to peanut butter ratio was perfect. As the name suggests there was crunch to go with the smoothness of the chocolate peanut butter. Good textures, great flavours. Milhouse had the White Chocolate Cheesecake consisting of a dark chocolate crust topped with a berry compote. For a chain restaurant, they make a pretty solid NY-style cheesecake here. For those who like a harder cheesecake, this would be quite satisfying. The shape was uniform while the texture was creamy. It wasn't too sweet with a definite baked cream cheese flavour.
Not to be outdone, Bear (who is also a dessert fiend) had the Apple Galette, as described on the menu: a warmed granny smith apples, a hint of cinnamon on a flay puff pastry topped with vanilla ice cream and finished with caramel. I had this a few times already and man, I am not ashamed to admit that the desserts at Cactus Club are pretty good and consistent. This reminds me somewhat of the apple pie at Joey. And what's not to like? The flaky pastry, the balanced apple filling, just enough caramel and the scoop of smooth ice cream all combine to make it better than apple pie. Lastly, Emilicious had the Key Lime Pie (which is one of my favs). Sounding quite repetitive, this was another good dessert. The filling was smooth with a good mix of tartness and sweetness. The crust was there, but not overwhelming while the sprinkle of lime zest added freshness. Flame me if you want, but we don't mind Cactus Club. I'm not afraid to admit it. Sure it's pricey, but at the very least, the food is pretty good.
- Pretty consistent food
- Place to be seen and to see
- Attractive staff
- Find me a location that doesn't have a lineup during peak times (good for them and Rob Feenie)