With the weather hitting lovely highs here in Edmonton, I have been eating out a lot more (my excuse is that my kitchen heats my house up too much). The other day my mom and I hit up the Cactus Club Cafe over by West Edmonton Mall. I guess it was about time. I work in the west end, so inevitably the time had to come where I would wander over to the somewhat newly opened Cactus Club Cafe to check it out. I must admit, I was a bit reluctant due to the fact that even though it is a Rob Feenie created restaurant, it still feels a bit like a chain in the vein of Earl's or Joey's, but a bit higher end. At the same time though, I was curious, and it seems like all the rest of the Edmonton food blogging world had been there (many opening night), so I figured I should give it a go.
True to previous reports, the interior was all hip and glossy (including the staff, I am not sure if they are still the staff brought in from Vancouver to start things off). It reminded me a lot of Kai Restaurant on Jasper and 109th that also opened fairly recently here in Edmonton. The menu was a lot different though, and did offer up some creative and intriguing options. Pricing was, as expected, similar to Earl's, but perhaps a bit more expensive for some of the more unusual items (i.e. a duck clubhouse will run you $17 for a sandwich!).
Mom and I took some time to make our decisions. I always have a tough time when faced with a big menu full of choices that are all new to me. Oh if only all restaurants had tasting menus of their signature dishes!!! Our server made some suggestions to us right off the bat, which I found unusual. Generally servers do not suggest specific items other then the "specials" unless asked. Either way, we went out on our own with our selections.
Mom went with the raincoast greens salad (grilled chicken, avocado, tomato, feta, egg, pecans, seasonal berries, lemon-thyme vinaigrette - $16) and I went with the short rib beef dip (caramelized onions, beef jus and emmental cheese on toasted sourdough - $15). I have to say, mom's salad was beautiful. The ingredients were nicely presented to show off the avocado, chicken and berries (on the side I didn't photograph). She was very pleased with it and said it was a tasty salad. My sandwich was good, but not quite what I had expected in that it didn't come with the jus on the side for dipping. The onions were subtle to the point of almost being unnoticeable, and the same goes for the cheese. The shredded short rib beef did not disappoint, it was tender and moist as is to be expected from a short rib. The start of my plate were the yam fries. They were sea-salted, which I expected to make no difference since I frequently use sea-salt myself, but they were so salty and delicious with the little spicy dill dip on the side that I gobbled them up.
Normally I don't go for dessert at lunch time, however being pregnant and out for lunch with my mom, it seemed like the thing to do, so we split the chocolate lava cake. I think the fact that we SPLIT it shows a lot of restraint on both of our parts. No surprise that this one was a hit with the two of us. The chocolate "lava" was gooey and delicious and tasted like cake batter licked from the bowl (in a good way).
I would say that the Cactus Club will likely do some good business out here seeing as the west end is filled with business men looking to lunch, and it will just end up competing with places like Chop, Earl's and Joey's. It does offer something a little different, and is worth checking out. I'm sure I will be back again to give the duck clubhouse a go since I am a duck fan, but I don't think it will be a regular spot for me seeing as I prefer quiet little places as opposed to big, loud, slick places when it comes to restaurant patronage. Still, it is a fun place if you want to go someplace a bit sceney, and with a nice patio, I suspect it gets pretty busy on Friday and Saturday nights with the pre-club crowd heading to west end locals after for drinks and dancing.