Lunch at the Cactus Club Cafe, English Bay

One of the purposes for our trip up north was to visit one of Z’s church staff who is on sabbatical at Regent’s College. We brought them out to lunch here (they have not explored the amazingly extensive dining options in Vancouver at all!) I must have looked through at least 10 different menus to find something that was covenient, delicious sounding, and had good kid options but their kids didn’t come in the end. It’s right by the beach and is supposed to have fantastic views but the day we went it was all grey and rainy.

Cactus Club Cafe
We started with the spicy chicken san choy pao – I’ve had san choy pao with duck and with pork but never with chicken. This was quite interesting if inauthentic. The chicken was battered! If it’s going to be doused in hoisin sauce I’m not sure I see the point but it was quite nice on the whole. Came with a side of hoisin and some sort of chili sauce, as well as the lettuce wraps but none of these are in the picture.

Cactus Club Cafe
This was the star of the meal for me – butternut squash soup with apple curry foam and seared scallop – so many amazing things in one dish. And it all went together very well too; I’d never had apple curry before nor scallop in a butternut squash soup. It was so good we had two bowls of this to share.

Cactus Club Cafe
Shrimp over butternut squash ravioli with crisp sage – while this was quite good it was a little too similar to the soup we ordered. The shrimp seems simply boiled and the pasta sauce was a simple browned butter with pine nuts. The crispy sage leaves were really nice though, as was the bite of the home made ravioli.

Cactus Club Cafe
Rob’s chicken – This was Pst. C’s – It looked pretty amazing and what we tried was pretty amazing, but it was a humongous portion! I didn’t think they’d be able to finish. The brown sauce is a rich, beefy, marsala-ey sauce (in other words, I have no idea what went into it) but it had a deep flavour profile that one won’t get tired off in a hurry.

Cactus Club Cafe
S got the Cajun chicken because he must have something spicy and he must have rice at every meal :P He doesn’t really eat shellfish or much seafood beyond fish I think, and he had to sub the potatoes that originally came with this for rice. Very difficult to bring them out to eat :P At least he managed to find something on the menu to suit him! But now I know the next time I take them out we’ll have to bring him to an Indian restaurant.

Cactus Club Cafe
My black cod in dashi was excellent – I loved the stock, the flakes of the fish slid off each other with no resistance and the shiitake was so tender. The broth was a little salty but nothing too bad. I take back what I said about the butternut squash soup, this was the clear star of the show :P Black cod is one of my favourite fish but it somehow doesn’t really take well to steaming chinese style with ginger and chili. It’s not true cod, but sablefish, and has a really thin skin that crisps up beautifully under the broiler.

Cactus Club Cafe
We ended with a lovely key lime pie, which Z and I had to finish between ourselves (not that we’re complaining) because the other two “don’t do dessert”. !!!!!!!! I’ve never dined with stranger people before in my life :P This was creamy and cold and tart and sweet, but a little bit too cheesy for my taste. I disapprove of all key lime pies that use cream cheese to attain smoothness in the curd; I use condensed milk and it generally yields a much smoother key lime curd with that.

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