Cactus Club Café

As much familiarity its name carries out west, I had not previously heard about the Cactus Club Café.  Finding it downtown Toronto was easy, though.  I could not have possibly missed that gargantuan signage hovering the north side of the First Canadian Place.

As I entered what I observed as an adult-contemporary-meets-millennial-inspired space, I was quickly greeted by the hostess. She motioned to the elevator that would eventually transport me to the rooftop.  My thoughts, thus far? Elevator? Rooftop? Fancy.

The elevator doors parted to unveil the roof terrace, and I was welcomed by the open sky and the sunshine beaming down on me. Sunlight is certainly the truest form of lighting that food photographers favour.  Well played, Cactus.

The restaurant name lends itself to its décor, but not quite in the most literal sense.  I do not remember actually seeing the arid environment inhabitant anywhere.  With a name like it, I envisioned hints of cactus green and shades of desert brown scattered throughout the area.  The place fulfilled that imagery.

Much like the rugged exterior associated with cacti, I felt as though the ambience also had a masculine undertone. I spotted television screens, which were simultaneously airing whichever sports game for that season.  If that is not your thing, do not fret – it is not like a whiskey-scented leather couch in your face kind of feel.  The bright pops of colour in the accents (like the throw pillows), helped neutralize that.  Strings of lights were also strewn across the roof to romanticize the vibe.

Viscerally soaking in the environment and layout some more, Cactus Club fundamentally follows the sameness of any lounge.  There is a bar (in the middle), booths surrounding the perimeter, and tables throughout.  Of course, there was music to match – think along the lines of “Ain’t Nobody” redux with some Drake thrown in there. I quite enjoyed the music.  Really, who would not after two glasses of their scrumptious sangria?

Some minutes into the lunch, the restaurant staff decided to put the retractable roof back to use.  The November air was brisk and there was a bit of a chill, so the blankets and heaters scattered all over the area proved to be practical.

The server relayed that we could have specific dishes or alternatively, that they could bring out samples of the menu.  We opted for the latter.  After all, the Chef should know best.

Much to our hungry stomachs’ delight, the servers presented us with a couple of dishes for each of the three courses (as laid out below).

{Starters}

  Ravioli + Prawn Trio   - butternut squash and mascaropone ravioli, truffle butter sauce, sauteed jumbo prawns, pine nuts. Cost - $14.50.

Ravioli + Prawn Trio - butternut squash and mascaropone ravioli, truffle butter sauce, sauteed jumbo prawns, pine nuts. Cost - $14.50.

  Tuna Stack   - ocean wise albacore, citrus tamari vinaigrette, nori, sesame, avocado, micro cilantro, wonton chips. Cost - $16

Tuna Stack - ocean wise albacore, citrus tamari vinaigrette, nori, sesame, avocado, micro cilantro, wonton chips. Cost - $16

To begin the meal, we ate the appetizer edition of the Ravioli + Prawn Trio as well as the Tuna Stack.  I am not one for raw fish, so heaps of that dish went to my plus one’s belly.  I may not have appreciated the texture of the tuna, but I was certainly pleased with the presentation.  It was so delicate, for a second I thought I was participating in high tea with my pinky up.  It was my friend’s second favourite dish.  I enjoyed the butternut squash and truffle butter flavours of the ravioli, but it was like watching a trailer to an upcoming movie – I wanted more than just a taste!  It was teetering that amuse-bouche definition.

{Mains}

  Duck Confit   - braised lentils, double smoked bacon, soy - truffle vinaigrette, baby frisee salad. Cost - $26

Duck Confit - braised lentils, double smoked bacon, soy - truffle vinaigrette, baby frisee salad. Cost - $26

  Sablefish   - shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, peking duck broth, fingerling potatoes. Cost - $34.

Sablefish - shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, peking duck broth, fingerling potatoes. Cost - $34.

The next portion was probably our favourite part of the meal.  We liked both of these dishes.  Favourite dish of the day – mine was the Duck Confit, while my friend’s was the Sablefish.  The duck dish stood out to me, not particularly because of the duck itself but more so the lentils.  I never would have thought lentils would speak to me as much as it did in that dish.  Other highlight – the fish was incredibly tender.  Probably unconventional, but if I could have paired the fish with the lentils, all would have been right with the world.  I did not care for the soup base for the fish.  I prefer a heartier, creamier soup, and viscosity was lost on this one.  Plus points were given out for the asparagus, which happens to be one of my favourite vegetables.

{Dessert}

  Key Lime Pie   - freshly squeezed key limes, graham cracker crust, hand whipped cream. Cost - $8.25.

Key Lime Pie - freshly squeezed key limes, graham cracker crust, hand whipped cream. Cost - $8.25.

  Velvet Underground   - warm caramel foam, crunchy sponge toffee, velvety chocolate mousse. Cost - $6.

Velvet Underground - warm caramel foam, crunchy sponge toffee, velvety chocolate mousse. Cost - $6.

As for the sweeter side of things, I enjoyed the key lime pie more than I did with the shooter dessert.  My friend and I were of the same opinion on this.  There is just more to savour on the pie, and the shooter was too strong for someone who regularly observes a caffeine-free diet.

{Drinks}

  Signature Sangria   - fresh strawberries and raspberries, zinfandel, apricot brandy, sprite and a splash of bellini. Cost - $10.50.

Signature Sangria - fresh strawberries and raspberries, zinfandel, apricot brandy, sprite and a splash of bellini. Cost - $10.50.

My friend and I had the same drink throughout this brunch.  You guessed it.  The Sangria.  It was so thrillingly delicious.  As soon as I had the first sip (gulp?), the experience pointedly reminded me of this drink from another restaurant/lounge type spot, which had been my sole go-to previously.  Not anymore.  Hands down, the fruity drink lover in me proclaimed this a fave for the long-run.

Overall, I had a wonderful time. The food was tasty – though I cannot say I would necessarily go back for the unconvincing price point.  The atmosphere, however – made it a suitable go-to for a lounge-y, sexy weekend brunch.  But hey, maybe it’s the Sangria talking.  Again, well played, Cactus.

Pedestrian Pat