Last May I decided I wanted to see Kinky Boots for our wedding anniversary, I knew it would be a treat but I honestly was not prepared for the sticker shock! The price equaled a nice weekend away in our own wine country at a four-star hotel (all be it, during off season)! So I passed. Then, last month I received an email from a local radio station that they were offering a discount to see the show (I don’t know why, because they seem to sell out) but I wanted to see it and so I checked out the deal. We ended up getting two seats in the first level balcony for $90, all in (and by all in, there is 13% tax as well as ‘convenience’ fees, whatever they may be). It was a matinée on a Wednesday afternoon (freelancing allows that freedom) so we decided to check out Chef Rob Feenie’s Cactus Club before the show.
Rob Feenie is a celebrated Vancouver Chef who presides over 18 Cactus Club restaurants in Canada and the Toronto restaurant is the only one east of Calgary! Located in First Canadian Place in the heart of the financial district, the place is poised for high-end business deals over delicious luncheons and the suit crowd for after work drinks.
The Cactus Club Toronto is on three levels, each level boasting a unique style but serving the same menu; I’ve heard that this location is their flagship. We dined on street level which has a casual bar-like décor and ambiance, sadly with a few TVs.
They don’t take reservations, they do have a few tables set aside for reservations, but their preference is for walk-ins, whether it’s for lunch or dinner. The front of the restaurant is set back into the building allowing a large hall to accommodate stanchions with velvet ropes for the large queues that, no doubt form. Most of you who have known me for some time, know that I do not wait in line for a restaurant so, this set-up did not bode well for me. However, it was a Wednesday, noonish and we were shown directly to our table. Whew! But as a side note, we have tried to make reservations for dinner a few times and have been turned down which is too bad because I would have liked to return.
The decor for this part of the restaurant is contemporary but warm. The perimeter is lined with large booths (but mostly sat only two people) around an enormous bar with stools all around. The window side had some little tables as well. What’s really interesting is the original art collection! On the upper levels you can enjoy your dish sitting alongside an original Warhol, Basquiat, or Mr.Brainwash!
Although we dined during the lunch hour, it wasn’t overly busy and they seemed to have a reasonable number of staff to ensure service was good. The kitchen is on the second or third floor which means the bus-boy is running up a flight of stairs with a basket of dirty dishes every 5 minutes or so, it also means that the food must be carted down the stairs alongside patrons walking up to the ladies or men’s rooms, which I found a little strange. Our server was attentive, friendly and considerate (asked if we were on a schedule).
We started with Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($16.50) which turned out to be an extremely generous serving, in fact, JT and I said we could have been satisfied with just this course! It’s sweet and spicy Szechuan glazed chicken garnished with peanuts and crispy fried wontons with Korean chili sauce and spicy yogurt on the side. It was DELICIOUS! I would definitely order this dish again.
My main course was the Tuna Stack ($16.00) made with raw ocean wise™ albacore tuna and avocado tossed in a citrus tamari vinaigrette (ceviche-style) garnished with crispy tempura, nori, sesame and micro cilantro with a large stack of deep fried wonton chips on the side. This too was a very generous serve and could have easily fed two people for a light lunch.
JT ordered the Short Rib Sandwich ($17.50) with sweet potato fries (which were extra, but I can’t recall how much), this dish was the least impressive by sight, flavour and size of the three we had — it was still delicious but not “WOW!” The sandwich is two halves of toasted sourdough bread with caramelized onions and Emmental cheese on tender short rib meat served with beef jus and a mayo that was a little like tartare sauce! It was fine, but not memorable.
We loved the Cactus Club and based on the food, service and ambiance would love to return but the potential queues at 7:30 in the evening for a table does not grab me…frankly there are too many really good restaurants in Toronto to waste time standing in line for another one!
Overall rating of Cactus Club (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).
Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.
2279 Bloor St W
Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 1am
Thursday – Saturday 11am – 1:30am
In case you are wondering what we thought of Kinky Boots: It was very entertaining and the music was catchy (not much sing-talking either, which I find annoying). The acting was captivating and the story played out very nicely.
The Royal Alexandra Theatre is an early-20th-century, Beaux-Arts-style theatre owned by Mirvish Productions. The theatre is gorgeous on the inside but the seats are incredibly small (the upholstery on the seats doesn’t look that old) so I will warn the ladies to wear slacks and taller patrons should only sit in the aisles seats.