Cactus Club Cafe-West Edmonton Mall
Decided to try the new eating addition to "da mall" yesterday afternoon.
It was their scheduled "grand opening" although they had a media event and likely some soft openings earlier in the week.
Yes, I know it is yet another "chain" and goodness knows the west end has plenty of those already, i.e. Earl's, Moxies, Joey's, Red Lobster, Italian Gardens, Boston Pizza, etc.
However, I was generally impressed by what we saw and ate. Considerably better than their last incarnation in this city when they had the cows outside the 123 St and Jasper location before it went out of business.
Nicely set up. Lots of stainless steel, aluminum and red leather. Mainly booths throughout the dining room with a few tables set up against the windows which face what will be their outdoor patio if and when the weather co-operates [it is snowing as I type]. We elected to eat in the lounge as neither my wife nor I like booths or banquettes preferring to being able to push away from or pull into the table.
Interesting if not particularly inventive menu [it is a chain after all] and decent wine list but not as good a value as Earl's by comparison.
We elected to try three of the Rob Feenie inspired dishes. My wife had the butternut squash ravioli, I chose the sablefish in dashi broth and we split the barbequed duck, chicken and proscuitto served apparently on Terra fruit/nut bread.
All were good. My only quibble with the otherwise excellent sablefish was that it needed more vegetables in that it came with a few split fingerling potatoes and some asparagus spears floating in the broth. I probably would order a salad to add more greens the next time or check to see if other veggies were offerred a la carte.
We had a nice pinot noir from the Oliver area of the Okanagan, Le Coq and then some merlot from CA.
Service was very friendly. The Cactus Club had flown in quite a number of "front of house" staff from their Vancouver area locations to assist and train. The kitchen was perhaps a little slow but our waitress was quick to apologize for the delay.
Dessert was on her.
It is located in the north-east corner of "da mall" where the Sears auto-centre used to be housed so if you are like me and loathe going to "da mall" you can get in and out fairly quickly and avoid the crush and clubbers near the Bourbon Street entrances.
One curious ... at least for me ... design issue was that they elected to have no direct entrance/access from the mall itself so during the winter one will have to walk outside from Sears to get to the restaurant itself.
We'll be back as it is an alternative to our usual "haunts" in the area like Earl's, Koutouki, Chop and Boston Pizza ... yes, not fine dining but that is what happens when you live in the "burbs"......
Yes, I would "guestimate" that they are comparable.
Burgers range from 12 1/2 to 14 dollars with a short rib sandwich at 15 which I think is just about what Earl's now charges for their "steak" sandwich which is also short rib based.
Definitely a few more higher priced "mains" but perhaps more variety.
The sablefish was 26, the butternut squash ravioli 17 and the bbq duck clubhouse 17 as well.
The two spots compare favourably with perhaps the Cactus Club leading because of more variety and they are the "new boy on the block". Excellent front of house service with all of the Vancouver staff having been flown in for the opening and apparently to be here for some time yet.
I am a "regular" at the 170th Street Earl's but I went back to the Cactus Club for lunch today having a very decent beef carpaccio [$131/2] and then bringing back the ravioli this time for me [very rich, truffle beurre blanc quite good] and their burger [$14] for my wife.
Where Earl's is superior in my view is with their wine and wine program. So many good deals especially in the lower end with their Mon Amis Rouge, However, Cactus Club is not bad with Riedel glasses to boot.
I expect their arrival is a good incentive for Earl's to improve as was the case a number of years ago when Dante's [now a Shark Club] first arrived on scene when Earl's was becoming a little complacent both with regard to food quality and service.
This is the first time I have been to a Cactus Club since their new concept was implemented so do not know if Feenie's arrival has resulted in higher prices or not.
I was there this weekend and had the sablefish as well; was impressed by the size of the piece of fish but would agree that it needs more vegetables. The fish was perfectly cooked and tasted wonderful.
I also had the peanut butter chocolate crunch bar for dessert and while it was good it did not wow me.
Service was very attentive.
I tried it. I thought Feenie's last venture was a little better, but surely this pays better and offers better coworkers.
I had the BBQ duck clubhouse - very ducky and I enjoyed it. The bread was very thin, so the fillings could take center stage. Not many condiments and no lettuce and tomatoes on it. I've made better sandwiches, but not to serve as many covers as they do in a day.
I got the yam fries on the side and they were delicious. Better than the sweet potato fries I've had anywhere in town. The garlic aioli was a great combination with it and I had just the right amount to dip all my fries. I am a frequent dipper and often run out, so it was nice to enjoy a larger portion.
My dining partner got the fish tacos. Homemade guacamole, which earns some respect, but otherwise they were fairly bland. I guess I am just used to the deep fried kind with some sort of sour cream dressing.
I don't normally get dessert, but I love key lime pie. Our server told us they squeeze 160 key limes for each pie, a task I appreciate but do not envy. It was excellent. The custard was creamy, smooth, and rich, and the airy whipped cream on top complemented it nicely. The graham cracker crust was extra thick. I am very glad I got my own instead of sharing dessert as I almost always do.
They have an unusual selection of draft beer (for Edmonton). A few from the Granville Island brewing company, which I think does better on tap than in the bottle, as well as a few house brews. My companion got their Udder Ale. I found it bland, but I'm sure it's very satisfying to people who like mild beers.
The service was very good, especially compared to what I am used to around here. Our waiter was helpful, and really wanted to make sure we were hapy with our meal. His timing was good, and my only complaint is that there was a bit of frozen beer on the outside of my glass which gave me a wet hand surprise that he should have noticed.
I don't eat at a lot of chain restaurants, but I will return here at least to try the wings.
"...they squeeze 160 key limes for each pie".
They must be very big pies!. The recipes for key lime pie that have seen call for 1/2 to 1 cup of key lime juice for a 9 inch diameter pie. Depending on the size of the limes, juiciness and the technique used , it would take between 15 and 20 key limes to get a 1/2 cup of juice and a maximum of about 40 for a full cup.
I got much the same "schbiel" as IWMAT did concerning the very small size of key limes comparitively speaking and the large number consequently required.
We were there again last night. I had one of their steaks and it was quite good and my wife had the ravioli again which she too enjoyed.
I opted for more good, albeit expensive wine [Sandhill Small Lots No. 1 - essentially a bordeaux styled blend of cab sauv, merlot and petit verdot] while she had the key lime pie. Enjoyed the filling but the crust could have used more work.
Once again, excellent friendly service [the decision to fly in staff from Vancouver and Calgary area outlets as they hire and train local staff seems to have paid off] including a short chat from Chef Feenie who stopped by our table and advised of some upcoming modifications to the menu.
They are doing some serious business there.
re: Bob Mac
Footnote - "Shpiel is Yiddish, and literally means 'play'. The modern use of the word shpiel refers to any presentation, performance, or seemingly rehearsed verbal expression. It has dismissive or humorous overtones, implying cliche, repetition, predictability, comic presentation, cheap antics and salesmanship, or flashy over-production."
We took an out of town guest here last week. Our first trip. But for the "too fishy" fish tacos, we all loved our dishes (my daughter just reminded me that the chocolate cheesecake was the best any of us had every had). I had the braised beef and it was heavenly. The appetizers were all good to excellent (the calimari was very good, the ribs good and the carpaccio excellent). Two pasta dishes both excellent; burgr was described as excellent by our burger fiend. We had the pleasure of meeting Chef Feenie. Very personable and seemingly very interested in our input. We mentioned that we were disappointed that there was no tawny port on offer and he seemed to take this omission seriously. Nice to have a few micro brews on tap. Overall great addition to the food scene in Edmonton. We like Earls, this was much better across 6 of 7 entrees.
We finally made it here on Sunday night with another couple. We were all hoping to see Chef Feenie, but no such luck.
the butternut ravioli appetizer was amazing, the buerre blanc with truffle oil was a beautiful compliment. I only wish I did not have it as an appetizer as I would have had the entree size.
Opted for the chicken. Nicely cooked skin -on chicken with wild mushrooms, reduction and roasted potatoes. Only complaint was that the reduction was really salty. I should have really said something right away. I thought maybe it was just me, a lot of things have been tasting salty lately. after the rest of the table ate my leftovers we all agreed it was not just my taste buds. We mentioned it to the waitress and she came back saying that the chef tasted it and agreed. Good to know that it got to the source. would have appreciated a drink or dessert on the house, but I guess that is my fault for not speaking up at the beginning.
the rest of the meal was great. Our server in the lounge was obviously a Vancouver transplant. However our dining room server was pretty green. Very limited wine knowledge. Although I don't feel that this is an area that they are trying to excel. I did end up choosing a really nice Spanish Tempranillo that complimented my earthy dish.
prices are definitely higher than an Earls, but then so is the quality.
I think that the Feenie additions are great, but I am sure glad to see the Jack Daniels ribs are still on the menu.
Feenie told us that he is trying to be at the Edmonton location on Thursdays and Fridays
You are probably spot on with regard to service. Most who we have met in the lounge are from Victoria, various Vancouver locations, Whiterock and the Barlow Trail "store" in Calgary.
I am going to have check into the Tempranillo as I did not notice it.
We have usually had the Red Rooster and Gray Monk pinot gris, the See Ya Later gewurtztraminer and Conundrum when going for white by the glass or Catena malbec or Beringer Cab for red.
Have enjoyed the Le Coq pinot noir from near Oliver, BC by the bottle and the No. 1 from Sandhill's Small Lots program when we decided to splurge.
The Spanish red would have gone well with the mushrooms and roasted chicken...too bad about the salt.
I wish more places would do a partially deboned chicken breast rather than fully deboned...is that what some spots call a chicken supreme or supreme of chicken?....as that gives the dish more flavour.
re: Bob Mac
I agree, i like a chicken on the the bone, seems classier somehow too.
I will have to get there on a Thurs or Fri, thanks for the heads up.
I was the only one drinking wine and knew that I would have at least 2 glasses and they recork, so I opted for a full bottle. It is called Marques de Riscal rioja 2003. Really enjoyed it, will look for it in the stores. It was $59 on their menu so it should be under $30 in the store.