Foodology Disclaimer: This was a fully subsidized private tasting from the managers due to poor service a month ago. This experience does not prove or guarantee 100% on the service and food you might normally get from this restaurant. Refer to the previous post – ” Cactus Club Cafe: The Tale of Awkward Service“.
One day I was just checking my email and the managers of Cactus Club Burnaby emailed me to invite me to a private tasting to amend the bad service from my previous post. Seeing that there were no strings attached, I accepted and invited 4 others. Honestly, I felt guilty. I did not create a food blog to get preferential treatment or to write for free meals. I pay for all my meals 100% unless otherwise noted, such as the disclaimer at the top.
It took me a while to figure out if I wanted to cover this event or not. I needed to see for myself if there was any benefit to the readers of Foodology. Upon knowing that Private Tastings are openly available to all patrons of Cactus Club, I have decided to write about my experience at the tasting. There was no pressure from management whatsoever to talk about the tasting.
Private tastings are bookable through reservations only on Thursdays (according to the Burnaby Cactus Club Branch). You are allowed to have up to 6 people at the tasting and costs around $350. You get 5 courses with wine pairings and its hosted by the senior manager. This works out to be about $67 per person. All the proceed apparently go towards charity, so thats a plus.
All 5 of us – ConsultingGirl, M, Fabo and LinLin arrived promptly at 6pm. We were greeted by the Manager and was showed to our table. Waiting at our table were 5 settings each with a Cactus Club water bottle. I am assuming pink for the girls and silver for the men.
Since this tasting fell on a game day, it was not bad at all. The restaurant was packed with people watching. The large projector screens made it easy to watch the game. Too bad the only Canuck fan was ConsultingGirl, she would be sitting there making noises such as “ouch” “oh no” and “SHOOOT”. Plus people at other tables would be making noises as well. It wasn’t bad since it was an indication to see what was happening on the big screen. It wasn’t a very intense game either – Round 2, Game 1 against the Predators. Canucks won!
The private tasting menu gives you a feeling of exclusivity since they put the persons name at the top. It shows the 5 items you will be served. We also noticed there were other people having the private tasting as well.
Our humble manager – Sean Doran made us all feel welcome and not too awkward. He was pretty down to earth guy and seemed pretty chill. Sean would explain in great detail about the wine pairing and the history and flavour profile of each wine.
The chef would explain in detail about the dishes that were presented to us.
Even though they did go on long rants about each item, it was interesting to know what was in our dish and where each ingredient originated from. I am usually the type of person where I have a really really short attention span, so I honestly can say I was only listening to 20% of what they were saying.
I did pick up a few things and it really made me appreciate the food I was presented with. All of us were really surprised from where all these ingredients were from and their history. It was quite surprising because as a chain restaurants, you wouldn’t really expect too much.
Our first course was the Tuna Tataki paired with the Gray Monk, Pinot Gris from Northern Okanagan.
This dish has seared albacore tuna, green papaya slaw with a yuzu vinaigrette. We all liked this dish, it was light and simple. The acidity from the yuzu and the sweetness from the papaya really accentuated the flavour of the tuna.
Our second course was Rob’s Goat Cheese + Feta Flatbread paired with the Prospect Winery, Pinot Noir.
It contains grape tomatoes, caramelized onions, pesto, arugula, balsamic vinegar and sea salt. One thing we noticed off the bat was the inconsistencies between the flat breads. Since we were given 3 plates of the flat bread, 2 of the flatbreads were more soft, while one of them was more crunchy. I think the flatbread was supposed to be more on the soft side, but we did prefer the flat bread to be more crispy, kinda like a pizza. It’s probably another one of our personal preferences.
If we focus on the toppings, it was a good blend of savory, acidic and salty.
The third dish was the Prawn + Scallop Spaghettini.
This dish has pan seared prawns and scallops with spaghettini in roasted tomato sauce, and parmesan crostini.
As the chef was explaining the dishes, he mentioned that this dish was more of an oil based dish rather than tomato. We found this was quite interesting. We all loved the prawn and the scallop! If you left me in a corner with a whole bucket of them, I would be happy for a whole day! On the other hand, without knowing that this dish was more of an oil based pasta, we would not have been keen on liking this dish. All of us are more use to the traditional pastas where there would be lots of sauce.
All of us agreed that the crostini was a bit soft and if it was a bit crunchier, it would have made the dish a bit better. The noodles were average and the oil based sauce was pretty bland. M remarked his mother could’ve made better Spaghettini.
The forth course was Rob’s Hunter Chicken. This was paired with the 2008 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon from California.
It had portabello mushrooms, crimini, button and shiitake mushrooms (talk about a mushroom party), demi glaze, green beans and herb fingerling potatoes.
I have had this dish in the past several times and I would have to say its my favorite. The chicken is brined for a few hours so the inside of the chicken is moist and juicy. Everyone else really enjoyed the taste. The chicken was so tender and juicy, while the skin had a slight crispiness texture of a rotisserie chicken.
The last course of the day was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bar.
This has Tahitian vanilla ice cream, the bar, caramel sauce and chocolate pearls. This was by far our favorite dish of the night! Who doesn’t love dessert right? The bar was very rich and sweet, but when you grab a bit of the caramel and the vanilla ice cream, they complement each other very well.
Apparently, the chocolate pearls were imported from Paris. They are made up of a rice crispy covered in what seems to be dark chocolate.
By the end of this, we were all stuffed. Fabo and I ordered some green tea to help us digest such a large meal.
Overall, it was a great experience to be able to attend this tasting. It gives you a greater appreciation for the food, but for me it was all about the taste regardless of where the ingredients are from.
If I had to spend $350 for a tasting, I’m not sure if I would. Begin a student, its a bit steep. Nonetheless, we would consider returning again for a few of the dishes we did enjoy. All of us agreed that the 2 items that blew us away was Rob’s Hunter Chicken and the Chocolate peanut butter bar.