All about food. All about Edmonton.
While fantastic food will make me want to return to a restaurant after the first time, it is a restaurant’s consistency that will keep me coming back on a regular basis. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – judge a restaurant not by the quality of one dish, but by the quality of several dishes over a period of time.
It is because of this consistency that the Cactus Club Café, despite being somewhat of a ‘chain’ casual dining restaurant (16 locations across Canada), is one of my favourite restaurants in Edmonton. Sure, they’re not quite the boutique, hidden, best-kept-secret type of restaurant, but their food is always fantastic.
Valentine’s Day was no exception. We were greeted at the table with a red rose laid across our menus (mine, of course) and had the option of choosing from the regular menu or from a special Valentine’s Day Tasting Menu. The dishes were much the same as the regular menu, the only difference being that you could get an appetizer, entrée, and dessert for a set price of $45. The Tasting Menu also recommended wine pairings, which I found delightful and an excellent idea, although I chose to stick to my Jean Bousquet malbec (possibly one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted).
We both started out with the Tuna Tataki, which was served over green papaya coleslaw, orange, avocado, and pine nuts, and drizzled with a yuzu vinaigrette. As an appetizer, the tuna was perfect. Light, flavourful, and extremely citrus-flavoured, this dish served the perfect purpose – to whet the appetite, rather than to sate it. The other option was a Beef Carpaccio: peppercorn-encrusted tenderloin that was served with dijon aioli, pickled shallots, capers, grana padano, and crostini.
For mains, we tried the Peppercorn Sirloin and the Thai Red Curry Lingcod. Having worked in a restaurant for years, I like to think that I can tell when a steak is cooked properly; trust me, I’ve seen hundreds of them go out wrong…and they’re often ones that I order myself. The Cactus Club Café has never cooked my steak incorrectly – it’s always perfect. Valentine’s Day was no different and I literally exulted in my perfect steak-and-jean-bousquet pairing for the majority of our visit. The lingcod, served on a bed of coconut almond rice, crispy wontons, and micro cilantro, was drizzled with one of the best red curries I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. This dish was a work of art – visually and tastefully pleasing.
Our desserts, while delicious, left the table half-eaten. The Cactus Club’s Tasting Menu, though filled with reasonably-portioned dishes, turned out to be too much for us to finish. I would never call their dishes large, but a three-course meal accompanied with drinks can sometimes be a difficult task to complete. In any case, we attempted the Apple Galette and the Key Lime Pie – both delectable and extremely different. For a lighter end to your meal, try the Key Lime Pie, a lime-flavoured cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. For pure decadence, try the Apple Galette, a French classic in all of its puff pastry glory.
One of the best parts of the Tasting Menu (alongside but not above the food), was that, if both parties chose to order from it, the table would be presented with a Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics cookbook. Some people might not find that particularly exciting but, for budding cooks, it’s the ability to recreate your favourite recipes from the restaurant in your own home. Just fantastic.
While this post may contain an over-usage of the word ‘fantastic,’ I have no regrets. That is exactly what the Cactus Club Café is, and I look forward to impeccably-prepared future steaks and a continuation of this restaurant’s consistency, great customer service, and general magnificence.
Fret not! All of the dishes mentioned above are included in the regular Cactus Club menu, so you won’t have to wait until next Valentine’s Day to try them!
Cactus Club Café
#1946, 8882 170 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5T
Open Mon-Sun, 11am – Late