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Cactus Club Cafe, Byrne Road

As a food focused individual, when looking for a place to dine at, I typically steer away form any chain restaurants. If possible, I prefer one of a kind establishments, offering something that is more unique offerings on to itself.

However, there are exceptions to this. This includes large group settings of not so picky diners, and any work function. In those cases Cactus Club (Westcoast Canadian chain dining at this finest), has always been my go-to and one that I recommend. Not only are there multiple convenient locations to choose from, most with plenty of seating that you may not even require a reservation. But they also serve an international menu that covers a lot of dietary restrictions. This includes vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Plus something for those who might not like raw fish or meat and also for those who do.

This was the case for today’s working lunch/happy hour. I was out with my colleagues and reservations for 4 were made for their patio. Cactus was a wise choice considering we were unsure of everyone’s preferences and palates. Luckily, one of us was well versed in the Cactus Club menu (not me) having visited just this week. And honestly I fully enjoyed what we shared as appetizers, and all the entrées my coworkers, let me take a bite of.

Starting with drinks, I was leaning towards their classic and popular Bellini, but their new Aperol Spritz slush caught my eye. Honestly I’m not a fan of Campari and the sweet orange Italian aperitif. However, mixed to chill as slush, with a crunchy icy texture like this, I fully enjoyed my fun and tropical looking beverage.

The others kept it safe with classics like mojitos and an Old Fashioned.

As for food we nominated the group’s experienced Cactus Club diner to choose our first round of appetizers to share.

Starting with the new Chilli Citrus Calamari with its perfectly shaped curls. Each ringlet the ideal size to pop a couple into your mouth. Fried crispy and dressed with chilis and szechuan peppercorn, served with a citrus dip. Although it wasn’t very spicy and I didn’t get any tingling from any szechuan peppercorn. The aioli is what really gave it its flavour, and there was plenty with just a little dab. Not to mention, they were generous with the dip.

The Prawn Crunch Roll was a nice fusion maki. Well crafted it was a refined one bite with crispy prawn, mango, and avocado; wrapped in rice and sesame soy paper. All drizzled over with a sriracha mayo and a soy glaze. Although I still found the need for soy. A dip to balance out the sweetness of the fruit and dressing with some acidity and salt.

We all appreciated how smooth the Avocado Dip was whipped. A blend of pico de gallo, feta, chili oil, cilantro, and fresh lime. And there was a good ratio of chips to dip, without having to ration.

The Wagyu Beef Carpaccio was fatty and rich. Tissue paper thin peppercorn-crusted wagyu beef, bearnaise aioli, capers, arugula, pickled onions, and freshly grated horseradish. Served with garlic crostini as a necessary base to help carry the bite and temper some of the excess gristle.

When we moved on to entrees it was every man and woman for themselves. Our Cactus Club fan went with the Szechuan Lettuce Wraps. Chicken in a sweet and spicy szechuan glaze with peanuts, wontons, korean chilli sauce, and spicy yogurt. She finished the plate with gusto, as a tasty and healthier option. Listed as an appetizer, but plenty of food for one.

The other two guests took her order advice and enjoyed their meals. Like the Thai Green Curry with coconut green curry, jasmine rice, bok choy, spinach, peppers, bean sprouts, thai basil, cilantro, and crispy rice. It was a sweeter curry with the creamy coconut milk and the sweet coloured peppers. Fragrant with lemon grass it was both refreshing and comforting over rice.

The Grilled Dijon Salmon was incredibly tender and buttery to match the potatoes. Ocean-wise steelhead, buttered mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, soy-dijon butter sauce, and cilantro.

I went rogue with the Truffle Parmesan Chicken and found it too heavy and too salty to enjoy as is. Parmesan crusted chicken breast, roasted and grilled mushrooms, potato gnocchi, truffle mushroom cream sauce, and arugula. This needed pasta or rice as a base. The gnocchi was just as heavy and became a part of the whole, as appose to a side offering a break. I would take this home and separate each element to have with something else. Like the chicken over a tomato sauce pasta. The vegetables over steamed rice with fried chicken. And the gnocchi as is.

In short, a great meal and the reason why I will continue to recommend any Cactus Club for any work related meal.

Cactus Club Cafe Byrne Road
7320 Market Crossing, Burnaby, BC V5J 0A2
(604) 430-5000

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