Cactus Club would not normally be my sort of restaurant. The thumping techno bass on the stereo makes my temples ache. All the servers have a signature look: faux tans, whitened teeth, hair extensions, breast implants and stiletto heels. Everyone wears black head to toe. It is a bit discomfiting for us regular folk with our pallid complexions, wrinkly unbotoxed foreheads, jiggly cellulite and gasp, horror of horrors, no veneers on our teeth.
In spite of all this I visit the Cactus Club fairly regularly for one reason, the tuna. We discovered tuna tataki one fateful night. We haven't been the same since. We were out with a friend who wanted to use up a Cactus Club gift certificate. I was intrigued by chef Rob Feenie's signature menu. Feenie incidentally used to be at the helm of the legendary Lumiere restaurant in Vancouver (now sadly defunct).
We ordered a few items to share starting with the tataki. What arrived was a revelation, silky slices of sashimi grade tuna seared on the outside served atop a crunchy "slaw" of daikon, carrot, Thai basil and cilantro with chunks of avocado and papaya. The whole dish is bathed in yuzu vinaigrette, which has the most sublime sour sweet citrusy kick. I kept mopping my tuna slices in the sauce. The slaw adds the most wonderful textural contrast with the sweet papaya, buttery avocado and crunchy daikon. This was and is one of the best things I have ever eaten. It is rhapsodically delicious. Another hit was Rob Feenie's flatbread, topped with grape tomatoes, caramelized onion, pesto, arugula, balsamic glaze, goat cheese and Maldon sea salt. The peppery arugula is a delicious contrast to the juicy tomato and the creamy chevre. This is food that tastes fresh and light but packs in big satisfying flavors.
Honorable mentions go to the sliders, three mini cheddar bacon burgers topped with house made red pepper relish. You see sliders everywhere on restaurant menus these days. You can't go wrong with these ones. I like them because there are times when a whole burger is just too much. With these mini burgers I satisfy my craving without feeling overstuffed. I can understand now why these little bites are perennially popular. Also recommended (from Cactus Club's regular menu) is the spicy chicken with wonton. Lightly breaded chunks of chicken are served with a spicy sweet chili sauce and crispy fried wontons. This is a fun dish to share as an appetizer. If you have room for dessert, try the key lime pie.
It is tart and refreshing.
Service at the Cactus Club for all the gym bunny glamour is attentive and efficient. This is not a place where you'd be inclined to linger but for a quick bite before a movie it works fine. Food arrives quickly and is just as quickly devoured. The booth tables are comfortable enough and Feenie's menu is undeniably mouth watering. In spite of myself I have to give kudos to Cactus Club for having good food reasonably priced.
In any event I’ll be back for that tuna. No place does it better. Until they do I'll just have to keep going back!