Even Rachel Ray Can Be Wrong

Cactus - Mexican and Southwestern Cuisine (2.5 Stars)

I asked Ryan if he'd be willing to try an authentic Oaxacan restaurant for dinner. He said it sounded like a place with creepy menu items. I commented it was "Oaxacan, like Mexican but authentic," to which he replied, "Why can't they ju
st call it Mexican food then?"

I eventually confessed that I wanted to try Chapulines, a Oaxacan dish that features grasshoppers in chili powder. (Yes, the insects.) For some strange reason that ended the Oaxacan food conversation, so we looked on the Passport website to find a Mexican themed resta
urant we could both agree on. It wasn't until we got in the car that we realized the restaurant we chose was in north Seattle and it'd take forever to get there during Friday rush-hour traffic. Thankfully, Becky (Ryan's portable car navigation system) came to the rescue and recommended a Mexican restaurant in West Seattle: Cactus.

With locations in Madison, Kirkland, and West Seattle, numerous "Best of" awards for its Mexican food, and being rec
ently featured on Rachel Ray's "Rachel's Vacations" on Food Network (http://www.foodnetwork.com/rachaels-vacation/seattle/index.html), we thought this would be a guaranteed great meal. Unfortunately, when you come away literally saying, "The salsa was the best thing we had to eat tonight", it's tough to swallow that so many people think the fare is outstanding.

Apparently because we went appetizer crazy at Dragonfish the night before, improvising a "tapas night" seemed like a great idea at Cactus. That said, as with virtually any Mexican restaurant anywhere, Chips and Salsa come practically before you even get water. In this case, it really was the highlight of the evening. The chips were freshly cooked, extra thin, crispy, and the salsa was spicy with great hits of tomato and green onion. Despite having plenty of cilantro, the overall flavor was balanced and delicious.

In a Mexican twist on an Olive Garden classic (God have mercy on our souls!), Ryan ordered the Chorizo Queso Fundido. Ironically, it features Oaxacan cheese (which I vigorously and with much revenge in my heart pointed out to Ryan), house-made chorizo, roasted poblano peppers, and basil, along with corn tortillas. The "dip" is served in a small cast-iron skillet with the flavorful though mild chorizo on the bottom topped with layers of cheese. I think because of the thickness of the cheese (and the copious amount of grease at the bottom of the skillet), the appetizer was actually too rich and oily and really needed lime, cilantro, or some other flavor to help cut through the fat and lighten the overall impact.

The Crispy Coconut Prawns were possibly the best of the appetizers. According to the menu, the "mango-pineapple mojo and swizzle of tangy chimichurri" are served with the prawns. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to counteract the too-heavily breaded shrimp. Also, the coconut flavor was relatively muted. As for the chimichurri, both Ryan and I came away saying, "It's too sweet" and neither of us could define a real "flavor" in the sauce.

The other appetizer vying for "best of the evening"< was the Charred Asparagus. Finished with lime and a smoky "Fresno aioli", the only real downside was the too-woody bottom ends on span style="font-size: 100%;">the pencil asparagus. Despite their thinness, the asparagus really did need to have the ends trimmed to prevent a texture mismatch. The smoky aioli was passable, though I think just simply grilling the asparagus in lime juice and oil would have offered plenty of flavor.

Oddly enough, the Chicken and Corn Flautas are not on the online menu, but are featured at least at the Alki Beach location. There is a definite smokiness to the filling, but that's the only taste that stands out and it gets boring after the second or third bite. The plate does have an aioli along with a ring of cilantro oil, but neither of those were really enough to lift the flautas above a rather forgettable flavor.

Despite all of the appetizers, I didn't feel I could get a real sense for Cactus' offerings without at least trying one entree. I asked our waiter, "Assuming your food is being review
ed by a critic, what is the absolute best dish on your menu?" I had already been looking at Butternut Squash Enchiladas and was happy when he mentioned it was probably that dish.

The "enchilada" is not a traditional corn tortilla wrapped around filling and served in a sauce, but rather more like stacked tostadas and includes sauteed spinach, caramelized onions, Jack and goat cheeses, manchamanteles mole, and, of course roasted butternut squash. You'd expect that many ingredients together to have a rich, complex flavor. However, the squash was undercooked and boring, the spinach was virtually flavor-free (despite eating it in a bite all on its own), the onions lacked punch, and the overall flavor you were left in every bite with was goat cheese. That said, I think the biggest disappointment was the mole.

Even though traditional "mole manchamanteles" is made with plantains and pineapple and can be sweet, it literally tasted like a berry coulis you'd drizzle over a slice of cheesecake or chocolate brownie which made me happy I had ordered the far too sweet sauce on the side. Ryan mentioned he thought the sauce "tasted good" and could see why people would like it, but it just did not work on that dish for me other than as a way to help mute the goat cheese. The plate also contained the ubiquitous beans and rice. Ironically, the black beans were spicy with plenty of cumin and was the best tasting item on the plate. The rice, even with pumpkin seeds, was as boring as the enchilada.

I'm not sure if the kitchen staff was just having an off night or not (we did see a table of two get their entire meal comped for some reason), but for now I have no intention of giving Catcus anything above 2.5 Stars and probably will not dine there again anytime soon. Ryan mentioned his margarita was good, but I doubt that'd be enough to really make a meal here worthwhile.

UPDATE: My good friend Carrie said that her absolute favorite menu item at Cactus is the Butternut Squash Enchiladas, so we'll chalk this experience up to a bad kitchen night.
Cactus (West Seattle) on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

burberry outlet online, ray ban sunglasses, air max, tory burch outlet, true religion, polo ralph lauren outlet, oakley sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, true religion jeans, ray ban, burberry outlet online, coach purses, longchamp outlet, coach factory, michael kors outlet, gucci outlet, louboutin, coach outlet store, coach outlet, tiffany and co, polo ralph lauren, chanel handbags, oakley sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, kate spade outlet, toms shoes, nike free, michael kors outlet, prada handbags, nike shoes, nike air max, louis vuitton outlet online, louis vuitton handbags, jordan shoes, coach factory outlet, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, louboutin

Anonymous said...

ray ban, new balance shoes, ugg boots, louis vuitton, ugg boots, bottega, montre homme, lancel, nfl jerseys, nike air max, asics gel, celine handbags, ralph lauren, mulberry, rolex watches, tn pas cher, louboutin, soccer shoes, jimmy choo, nike free, juicy couture outlet, ugg boots, nike air max, air max, gucci, converse shoes, ferragamo shoes, chi flat iron, yoga pants, nike free, hollister, oakley, valentino, ray ban, supra shoes, karen millen, beats by dre, vans, jerseys, longchamp, louis vuitton, insanity, reebok outlet, ralph lauren, ghd, mcm handbags, timberland, birkin bag, abercrombie and fitch, oakley,

Jordans Nike said...

cheap jordan shoes, cheap nike jordan shoes, air jordan shoes, wholesale jordan shoes for sale, cheap jordans, wholesale jordan shoes, Cheap jordans, wholesale jordan shoes, jordan shoes for cheap, cheap jordan, cheap jordans, Cheap Nike jordan shoes, discount nike jordans

co wendy said...

wholesale jordan shoes, cheap christian louboutin, Bags Louis Vuitton, ugg, Cheap Louis Vuitton Handbags, discount nike jordans, christian louboutin, Christian Louboutin Daffodile, uggs outlet, Christian Louboutin Bois Dore, christian louboutin shoes, cheap nike jordan shoes, Discount LV Handbags, uggs on sale, Cheap LV Handbags, ugg soldes, ugg boots, ugg pas cher, ugg australia, christian louboutin remise 50%, cheap jordans , Discount Louis Vuitton, discount christian louboutin, Air Jordan 11 Gamma Blue

maoqiuyun said...

tod's sale
mlb jerseys
louis vuitton outlet stores
polo ralph lauren
jordan shoes
replica watches
asics gel kayano
ray-ban sunglasses
ray ban
adidas outlet
louis vuitton outlet
asics shoes
burberry handbags
ralph lauren
lacoste polo shirts
tods outlet
air jordan 4
hollister pas cher
nba jerseys wholesale
michael kors uk
cheap nba jerseys
coach outlet
michael kors outlet
coach outlet store
louis vuitton outlet uk
hollister clothing
kate spade
abercrombie outlet
air jordan concord
oakley outlet
coach factory outlet
salomon shoes
air max 95
pandora charms
michael kors outlet
kate spade handbags
chanel handbags
iphone 6 cases
links of london
ray ban sunglasses
celine outlet online

Junda Xu said...

20150728 junda
tn pas cher
cheap ray bans
polo outlet
coach outlet
chanel outlet
ralph lauren sale
burberry scarf
nike pas cher
fitflops sale
michael kors outlet
coach outlet store online
oakley sunglasses outlet
cheap oakley sunglasses
football jerseys
beats headphones
beats by dre
prada shoes
ralph lauren homme
ralph lauren polo shirts
burberry outlet online
abercrombie and fitch
tory burch handbags
mcm backpack
soccer shoes
oakley store
ray ban glasses
kate spade bags
kate spade bags
hollister outlet
true religion
gucci borse
michael kors outlet online
longchamp outlet online
true religion jeans
louis vuitton borse
gucci sito ufficiale
oakley outlet
mont blanc
longchamp pliage
true religion

mao qiuyun said...

michael kors outlet online
air max 90
custom mlb jerseys
christian louboutin outlet
insanity workout
new york knicks jersey
oakley sunglasses, http://www.oakleysunglasses-wholesale.us.com/
prada handbags, http://www.pradahandbagsoutlet.co.uk/
nfl jerseys wholesale, http://www.nfljerseys-wholesale.us.com/
replica watches
evening dresses
rayban sunglasses, http://www.raybansunglass.com.au/
tods shoes
new balance shoes
chanel handbags, http://www.chanelhandbags-outlet.us.com/
coach factory outlet
coach outlet, http://www.coachoutletstoreonline.in.net/
converse shoes
pandora jewelry
cheap mlb jerseys
salomon running shoes
the north face outlet store
boston celtics jersey
pandora jewelry
tory burch outlet
nba jerseys
oakley,occhiali oakley,oakley italia,oakley occhiali,oakley sunglasses
lebron james shoes
louis vuitton
lebron james shoes
celine outlet online
christian louboutin, http://www.scarpelouboutin.it/
louboutin shoes
nike huarache, http://www.nike-airhuarache.co.uk/

dong dong said...

jordan 11s
lebron james shoes 2015
oakley sunglass
coach outlet
longchamp bags
michael kors outlet online
louboutin,christian louboutin,red bottoms,louboutins,red shoes,red heels,christian louboutin sale,christian louboutin shoes
michael kors handbags
michael kors outlet
coach outlet
ray ban sunglass
abercrombie and fitch new york
coach outlet
michael kors outlet online
michael kors handbags
coach factory outlet
oakley sunglass
ray-ban sunglasses
coach factory outlet
gucci outlet
caoch outlet
michael kors outlet
cheap air max
timberland boots
uggs outlet
uggs sale
louis vuitton
coach outlet store online
nike blazers
nike huarache shoes
michael kors outlet online
timberland boots
louis vuitton handbags
michael kors bag
ray ban glasses
coach factory outlet online

陈晓 said...

ralph lauren australia omega watches had p90x workout schedule rayban coach factory

oakley sunglasses cheap air huarache black nike polo ralph lauren north

face outlet
nike roshe run ray

mayors) p90x workout burberry pandora abercrombie.com moncler women jackets North replica watches kate spade outlet adidas eyeglasses frames kate

Little converse outlet hermes birkin swarovski tommy hilfiger online shop

oakley canada Rock cheap barbour jackets lululemon hollisterco michael kors

outlet online
tiffany and co jewelry has swarovski crystals pandora

mac cosmetics coach outlet store hollister a coach handbags factory bcbg

tommy hilfiger outlet stores oakley sunglasses cheap prada shoes

voting tory burch sandals louis vuitton outlet online new

michael kors handbags clearance jordan release age ray

ray ban outlet

Post a Comment