Last month, in September, John and I raved on and on about the NE Cactus Club to a friend. She excitedly asked her daughter about it who confirmed how hip, trendy and delicious this place is. Surprisingly though, that night, the service and food were off, not even slightly but completely missed the target off. A sad disappointment. But, after what transpired in the following weeks after posting our review, I’d say that Cactus Club sure doesn’t like being in a negative light. They aim to please their customers, and it shows!
We got an email from one of their marketing people who had seen our post. (How pleasant that they would care what an individual, local person would say about their restaurant!) They were quite concerned at our poor experience and mentioned that they would forward our post to the managers. Within days, we got an email from the regional manager who stated that our negative experiences were addressed in the kitchen and at the bar. Things were pointed out, streamlined, and addressed with the staff, from what we gathered in his email. He even specified how he reminded the kitchen staff to count the number of scallops and shrimp in their spaghettini dish. Initially, I had some skepticism since anyone can simply type out such ‘promises’; Action is what matters. When he invited us back for a re-try, I was pleased to feel that one local person’s opinion mattered to Cactus Club. To be honest, that one caring gesture alone brought us back into the restaurant.
We ordered the same menu items as on the disappointing night a few weeks ago. Why critique something different? The new verdict ..
Tuna tataki. I presume that not many people know the unique taste of yuzu sauce. It’s a Japanese citrus that is quite difficult to find in Calgary. (I have had to begrudgingly resort to a yuzu flavored dressing in my own dishes.) When I saw the generous pool of the strong yuzu vinaigrette with the tuna tataki, I was curious to see how the ingredients of tuna, pine nuts, avocado, green papaya slaw, and oranges would work together. While my husband loved it, I remarked that I couldn’t taste the fish. As much as I admired the bold combination of flavors and textures, I wanted to taste the tuna in the end.
Prawn and scallop spaghettini. Fabulously presented! A swirl of mountainous pasta topped with a juicy prawn and plump scallop. Tasty, savory and filling.
BBQ duck clubhouse. Moist, tender duck. I couldn’t believe how large the slices of duck were in my sandwich. The pecan fruit bread was sweet to complement the rich taste of duck. After a few bites though, the bread started to fall apart. Too many chunks of nut and fruit, not enough bread. Is that a bad thing? Hard to say. It was a little annoying to have to use my fork to finish my sandwich, but it was delicious nonetheless.
Rocket salad. The warm panko and parmesan breaded chicken sits under the salad. I’d say it was daring to use arugula since it can be overly bitter, but it worked for me. Great look to the salad. Unique. Fresh. Healthy. The lemon thyme vinaigrette was a tad too zesty and overpowering.
Chocolate peanut butter crunch bar. Without swearing, HOLY SMOKES! It was amazing and has now made it to the very top of my favorite dessert list. Crunchy base. Not overly peanut buttery but definitely peanut butter and chocolate. YUM! I wished we had a larger slice.
Key lime pie. Quite good. Peppy. Zippy. Zesty. However you want to describe good key lime pie. The chef, from the manager’s description, hand squeezes over 100 key limes daily to make this dessert. Do you know how small a key lime is? Impressive. Tiny citrus. Big flavor. The only thing that we can mention is that the texture isn’t quite exact as an authentic key lime pie from the Keys. But if you haven’t been there, you won’t care about Cactus Club’s version. Heavenly!
By the end of the night, I had put Cactus Club back up on our list of Wow Restaurants. The service was efficient and attentive. She was knowledgeable and polite. The manager and regional manager, at different points in our meal, stopped at out table to check on how things were going. We introduced ourselves and mentioned that we were ones who were re-reviewing the restaurant. They were genuinely curious to hear our take of the experience up to that point.
Throughout the night, I kept an eye out for similar dishes passing our table. I wanted to be sure that we weren’t getting ‘special’ treatment. Afterall, I wanted to make a second review that was fair and unbiased. From what I saw, there were definite noticeable changes in how the dishes were plated and how the servers and manager were getting around the tables. We weren’t the ‘singled’ out customers. We were treated like the rest. Important. Valued.
I’m glad that we came back.
Thank you, Cactus Club, for caring enough about the impressions and quality you make in the Calgary food industry.