Just another Friday at work (Yeah … right.) Cactus Club, English Bay

I was recently afforded the luxury of visiting my other home – Vancouver BC (fine … I’m from Richmond, but whatever, minor details!) to spend some much needed time with my parents and my sister. My twin brother, Matt, was taking a break from his Calgary living to soak up some sun in Palm Springs for a friend’s stag … so alas, one of the original “Frey 5” was missing.

While there is so much to say about my visit (thoughts, highlights, reflections, etc.), I thought I would simply post about the meals we had OUT ON THE TOWN while in Vancouver. I should note here, on the topic of meals, that my mother is an absolutely incredible cook and I thoroughly enjoyed her delectable breakfasts, lunches, dinners (and desserts) HOWEVER I didn’t get the chance to take photos of her food because it was just so delicious and we are also a very chatty bunch … so amongst the talk, and gobbling, there isn’t much time for photography (and I left my phone in my bedroom most of the time to get the most out of my visit).

I should also note that there are about 5 other restaurant reviews forthcoming, but I am far too impatient and in need of immediate gratification to wait until I (the verbose one) finish all of my essays (read: restaurant reviews). So I am posting the Cactus Club on it’s own. Maybe it warrants its own blog post anyways …

Cactus Club (English Bay, Vancouver)

After a wonderful walk along the seawall, in tropical weather (i.e. warmer than 5 degrees celcius – compared to Ottawa, that’s tropical!) we stopped into the waterfront Cactus Club. This location is new since I moved from Vancouver in 2011, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Ryan and I always wondered why they didn’t open up a location on the waterfront side of Beach Ave whenever we would rollerblade or walk by it (and every so often, stop in to the Milestones that was across the street). Momsy and I enjoyed what is apparently my dad’s favorite dish – the butternut squash ravioli with sage brown butter sauce. We also ordered the ceviche. For a drink I decided on the fawlty tower martini and my mom had another martini variety (and to be honest I actually don’t remember the name of hers – all I recall is that we both agreed mine was better, which is essentially all that matters, hahaha. Not kidding).

Butternut Squash Ravioli: Let me tell you – I am not a huge pasta eater (partially because I really love protein, crash after a carb-heavy meal, don’t ever feel “full” from pasta until it’s too late, etc.) … but this dish combines an amazing pasta with the most delicate of flavours and textures. The ravioli is perfectly cooked, with a subtle sweetness to the filling, the pasta is al dente and quite honestly, perfection. The shrimp/prawn atop each ravioli morsel are also perfectly cooked (crunchy and sweet, not chewy) and the butter sauce — oh my goodness, it is so decadent yet not too rich or overpowering. I would actually swear there is some truffle oil or essence in there, but I don’t see that anywhere on the menu (or in other bloggers posts. Maybe I am just a huge truffle-tasting weirdo.). The dish is finished with a few toasted pine nuts and fried sage leaves, which really round out the underlying rich and sweet flavour with a warm and nutty finish. Seriously, it is AMAZING.

Ceviche: I have had the opportunity to taste authentic ceviche in Miraflores, Peru, and it was really quite phenomenal. That said, the Cactus Club version was surprisingly good. I would have to say I’d write home (or text/email) about it because it is fresh, light, and perfectly balanced. The dish is served with large tortilla “chips” (think 2-3 nacho chips in one, in terms of size) and is comprised of finely chopped prawn/shrimp, salmon, red onion, and some green parsley (I don’t think it’s chopped cilantro, as that flavour is much stronger – albeit delicious – and this was more subtle). It is then served in a citrus dressing (which is how the raw seafood becomes “cooked” or pickled, I guess. I am probably butchering whatever terminology the fine dining chefs use to describe the preparation …).

When all is said and done, the combination of the ceviche, which is light and refreshing, was a perfect pairing to the velvety and smooth ravioli dish.

Fawlty Tower Martini: Moving onto the drink. I am not a martini kind of girl. I have found them gross, for lack of better words, even when they are supposed to be “chocolate” flavoured and even when I add extra olive juice to a straight-up martini (I love olives and pickles BTW .. and sadly the acidic addition did not help in that particular case). The only martini I have ever really liked is the one my friend Cassi made for me recently (and I had to write it down several times because I couldn’t remember if it was vodka or gin, dry or sweet vermouth, etc. etc. I am totally lost and would be a terrible bartender). What I am trying to say is that I was taking a HUGE risk ordering a sweet-ish martini at lunch, with my mom, on a Friday afternoon (just kidding – that is about the most despicable first world problem that ever existed). The fawlty tower was SO DELICIOUS that I want to try and recreate it at home. It wasn’t too sweet (which can be gross, especially if the mixed drink tastes like fake cough medicine. Ugh. Banana or strawberry or grape or cherry. Yuck! Scarred for life as a child, apparently. Must have had a lot of colds!). The martini ingredients were as follows: gordon’s dry gin, soho lychee liquor (you could really taste the lychee – nom nom), fresh squeezed lemon and grapefruit juice, and a tiny shred of basil (it literally was about an eighth of a leaf, haha). In any case, I highly recommend this drink. Heck – I just wrote a paragraph about it so I would hope you at least consider trying it!

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