I have not had dinner at Cactus Club Cafe in such a long time that I was craving some of Canada’s Iron Chef Rob Feenie’s signature dishes. My cousin’s family happened to be visiting and to introduce them to some proper western food, we decided this was the place to be. We were seated on the half covered patio outside so it was nice and bright, as well as quite chilly. However, the brighter ambiance complimented the casual but still stylish décor.
As we waited for our entrees to arrive, we shared the Crispy Yam Fries served with garlic aioli. The fries were hand cut and thus thick enough to have both the crispy shell as well as the softer inside. They were not too oily and instead, had a wonderful yet thin crisp. I just love the sweetness of yam fries. The garlic aioli was delicious, with very strong flavours from the garlic and dill. Quite tangy and creamy, it complemented the warm, crispy fries well.
Having tried and very much enjoyed it years ago, we ordered the Prawn + Scallop Spaghettini again. This is one of the Rob Feenie signature dishes, which is already a sign that it is a great dish. I think they could have put more scallops in the dish if it is going to cost $20.25. However, the two that were in there were just a tad bit overcooked. They were not as moist and juicy as they could be. The prawns were tender and succulent even though they were probably frozen tiger prawns. The parmesan crostini had parsley on top and were thin and mostly crunchy. They had great flavour but I prefer a moist and soft centre for my accompanying bread so perhaps a thick garlic toast is more for me. The spaghettini was the highlight of the dish. Usually, pasta dishes are not great at restaurants like this. However, this was cooked al dente and the roasted tomato sauce had great flavour. It was well seasoned, with the acidity of the tomatoes coming our perfectly. With some vegetables mixed in, the sauce was delicious and coated all the pasta in the dish.
I decided to go with the Soy-dijon Ocean Wise Salmon, another of the Rob Feenie signature dishes. It was served with sugar snap peas and marinated shiitake mushrooms over a bed of whole grain barley. The sauce was grainy mustard in a soy butter sauce. The salmon was grilled nicely, quite succulent and still moist. With the tangy mustard soy sauce, it tasted great. It was also garnished with some cilantro and some type of radish or turnip. It was not marinated or seasoned so without the sauce, there would have been no flavour in the salmon. At least the sauce was great, though, as it was tangy, spiced, and with a decent savoury butter flavour. The barley was chewy and slightly undercooked, just the way I like it. The mushrooms were sweet and juicy, and they were my favourite part of the dish. The snap peas just added a nice and refreshing crunch, as well as some green colours to the dish. The entire plate was nicely tied together with the sauce and surprisingly, mustard and soy sauce combines well together.
I also tried some of Mom’s Jambalaya Rice Bowl that included shrimp, chicken, Andouille sausage, vegetables, bacon, spicy tomato sauce, black bean salsa, and crème fraiche. The rice was not soggy, which was good. The shrimp, chicken, and sausage were all tender and in small pieces. The bacon was chewy and the black bean salsa was more like cooked and softened black beans. The spicy tomato sauce tied the dish together, along with some cream. However, I did not find there was enough sauce in the bowl, as some rice at the bottom did not get much sauce near the end. The vegetables consisted of green beans, red and green bell peppers, and onions. Perhaps there were a few other kinds that I did not catch. Overall, I found the tomato sauce not spicy enough. They could have made it a lot spicier so that it is not as bland. Even some more savoury or peppery spices would have been nice. For me, this dish has too many ingredients that none of them really stands out. There was no real highlight and all the different ingredients made the dish too busy and confusing for the palate. Something a little simpler with a bolder flavour would have been better.
For dessert, I insisted on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bar, one of Rob Feenie’s signature desserts. The thin layer of a slightly liquid chocolate sauce on top was semi-sweet and sticky but not melting off the bar. The middle layer, which was also the thickest, was like a slightly fluffy chocolate mousse that had mostly dark chocolate; it was not very sweet at all. Mom and my favourite layer was the peanut butter crunch on the bottom. It was extremely hard, but also very crunchy. There were pieces of crushed peanuts mixed into the hardened chocolate and peanut butter fudge-like layer. Some peanuts were also in the top layer. Overall, every bite was smooth, crunchy, sticky, sweet, savoury, and just absolutely delicious. The Tahitian vanilla ice cream was incredibly smooth, sweet, and aromatic. Even sweeter was the sticky caramel sauce, which, when paired with the crunchy chocolate pearls, tasted amazing. The pearls were so adorable, with chocolate covering tiny cookie pieces.
We also got the Key Lime Pie, served with a large dollop of whip cream and half of a slightly dried lime. A fresher piece of lime would have been preferred, but the whip cream was very fresh. It was not too sweet, nor too oily; instead, it was chilled and fluffy. The key lime pie filling was very tangy but the sweetness balanced it out nicely. It was quite liquid in texture but since it was my first time eating this traditional dessert, I cannot judge. The graham cracker crust was incredibly crumbly but was sweet and lovely. The dryness of the crumbs complemented the key lime filling nicely. Overall, this was also refreshingly delicious.
I am very pleased with Cactus Club Cafe, with their outstanding dishes. Perhaps they are a bit pricey, but each dish was evidently made with care. The service is great and the plating artistic and beautiful. No wonder it is usually considered the best western restaurant chain; I certainly love it!