The long tease that began back in the summer of 2013, when the street level windows on the northern flank of First Canadian Place were first plastered with Cactus Club Café branded brown paper, is at last over.
The Vancouver chain’s new Toronto flagship is open—and ready to feed you, 500 at a time. This new 10,000-square-foot Cactus Club, is spread over three floors (its all-season rooftop-patio level capped with a retractable roof).
It is the company’s 28th Cactus–branded restaurant and their first outpost east of Saskatoon. (The restaurant chain has announced its second Toronto location at Sherway Gardens, set to open in 2017.)
Obviously, as such, the First Canada Place location serves as a bridgehead for all eastern expansion. Which is to say, there’s even more riding on the success of the place than its staggering build costs, rumoured to be north of $15 million.
But never mind that. What should matter instead to the Toronto diner is the measure of what chain restaurants are willing to do for your dollars these days. And, take it from us, things are looking up.
The design of the place is magnificent, from the sculpted light fixtures to the art on the walls—on loan from Cactus Club owner Richard Jaffray’s obviously nifty collection. (Yes, real Basquiats, Warhols and Mr. Brainwash, too.)
The kicker is the fellow overseeing the kitchen: one Rob Feenie, a chef as good they come. His mass-market cooking spans some recognizable classics from Lumière days, like butternut squash raviolis with truffle butter and poached shrimp. (Just $14.50 as a starter.)
There are also a host of ambitious and compelling new dishes unique to Toronto, from roasted lingcod with mushrooms and brioche croutons, and a two-way beef with a port reduction.
At the advance tasting, most of it was of shockingly good quality, given the cookie cutter culinary circumstances.
How it will land when the place gears up remains to be seen, but the track record is on their side.