Saturday, December 13, 2014

Not on the menu at the Cactus Club

Cactus Club Cafe on Urbanspoon
So I finally dropped in at The Cactus Club downtown -- you known, the one at the 2010 Winter Olympics torch.

It's quite a big place and with multiple exits that look like they could very well be entrances. Keep circling for the one with heat lamps warming a path to three to five hot hostesses ready to seat you (or turn you away because they are full).
I was by at around 3.30pm -- not yet their 4pm happy hour -- and the place was already busy. The server looking up the reservation for my party said they were always busy.
And reservations? Yes and no. If you know certain people, yes. No harm trying to call one in, though.

The layout inside looks expansive but the lanes are a bit tight. Any obstruction and you might be better off circling around to a different lane. They also keep it sort of dim, so if you want a really good look around, go during the day. It's actually rather nicely laid out in that there is a lot of non-window seating that have good views. Don't get hung up on a window seat unless you are some sort of misanthrope who mustn't have filthy homo sapiens drifting in and out of your field of vision.

When I go to restaurants, I always hope for freshly squeezed juice from a real fruit obliterated on-site, and this time the answer was actually "yes". Orange or grapefruit. And an odd, "I don't know where they squeeze it" thrown in. Eh? The server quickly added that she didn't know whether it would be squeezed upstairs or downstairs (huh?) but I gave the orange juice a go anyway.
At $4 it cost the same as a happy hour beer. Came chilled and with no ice to take up space in your tall glass. Looked cloudy and had pretty fine pulp. Didn't have the same artificial intensity as Tropicana or Oasis.

After sampling my friend's calamari appy (which looked more like a dinner plate of calamari in portion size, to be honest) that had a strange oiliness to the flavour even though it didn't look oily at all, I skipped straight to dessert. The very first item, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bar, was emphasized in a grey box. I inquired about whether it was something special and was expecting to simply be told that it was a Rob Feenie Signature Dish. Many items on the menu are marked "RF" to indicate this. Instead she said she didn't know why it was highlighted that way, and that, if anything, the menu should mention their current seasonal special, a pumpkin cheesecake.
I thanked her for telling me, though I also wondered that they were so busy I wasn't told of specials when the menu was brought to me.

  • The Pumpkin Cheesecake ($8.25, the par price for all their desserts) was a slightly smallish slice on a plate drizzled with caramel. The main flavour is the cheese and if you swab your bites with the caramel on the plate, you also get strong caramel flavour -- and the both combined wiped out any hint of pumpkin. Otherwise it was a really decently done cheesecake. Light in taste and texture, not crumbly. Price is either somewhat awful for portion or inflation has seriously caught up.

From the little I've seen so far, food isn't anything super special (might have to focus on the RF signature dishes next time). You are here (and paying for) for the convenient, location, the views, the happy hour, and the people watching. Speaking of which...

Every server is a confidently mannered young hottie. And every one of them "identical", someone remarked. Well, not exactly, but there is a dress code, and not one that shows a lot of cleavage or with a skirt so high you can get a glimpse of butt -- they are cute, but the hiring criteria apparently doesn't require D-Cups or Kim-Kardashian-worthy curves.
Heterosexual single guys might then think the Cactus Club to be a great place to go, but honestly, it ends up being more like a Hooters tease. Everyone has been staring wistfully at them and hoping to get their number, so they'll all have boyfriends already. It's an exercise in frustration. If you are there just to look, or to practice not stammering when talking to a Perfect 10, by all means go. If you have a date, better not, maybe. If you are a woman looking for a date, I suppose you could use them to test the attention span of your suitor-of-the-moment.

It can be hard to catch the eye of a waitress, so your bet bet might actually be to just sit tight until they check on you. And in such a busy place, they WILL check on you with increasing frequency if you are there for a while and your party hasn't fully assembled. Space is money and they need to see you drinking or ordering food.
If that is off-putting for you, go with a tighter group or assemble everyone first -- or go somewhere else. It's hard to demand better attention when they have well-to-do tourists and conventioneers and businessmen waving money at them from all sides.

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