Friday, May 1, 2009

Succulent Cactus

Date night (as in, kids are at grandma & grandpa's) is almost always a great night! And last night was made even better by company. In a university swamped in nepotism, my husband thought he'd contribute by hiring my cousin this year. We've wanted to get together with her and her boyfriend, now fiance, all year. But you know how that usually goes.

So, to celebrate her last day at work and finding ourselves with clear schedules, we decided to all go out to dinner. We thought about hitting up their favorite diner on Queen Anne since The Five Spot just changed their rotating menu. But after hearing the terrible traffic report, we wussed out and stayed east of the lake!

Enter my suggestion...Cactus! Oh how I love this place nestled in the heart of Kirkland...really one of the only restaurants to bother with other than Zeek's Pizza and Hanuman Thai (oh, yeah, and Trellis, of course). And it's always fun to introduce people to "fancy" Mexican.

Cactus is one of the few restaurants where I'll choose a cocktail over a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. That's because it is connected to the summer season in my head. And yesterday the sun was out and it was kind of warm. People were crowding into the outside patio tables...okay by me...I usually prefer indoors this early in the year.

We ended up with the best of both worlds...right next to the glass windows, but not plagued by the breeze. The menu has changed somewhat since the last visit more than a year ago. Sauces have been revamped, our server informed us. Although she was nice, she was probably the weakest part of the evening forgetting things like a glass for my husband's beer, clearing plates before we were done, etc.

But let's not dwell on the negative. In true nerdy style, two of our party of four lugged cameras along to bring you these sumptuous images of tasty food.

Starting my summer off right, I relaxed with a mojito, all refreshing with it's lime and mint.

Having loved the Indian Fry Bread at Pomegranate Bistro in Redmond (a long flat bread covered in topping like tomatoes or cilantro), we chose to try the Cactus Fry Bread under the appetizer list. What a surprise...we basically received a plate of triangular donuts to dip in a vessel full of honey. It wasn't bad, but should really be on the dessert menu.

In true reviewer style, we ordered four different entrees ranging from Butternut Squash Enchiladas (yummy...the sweet squash complimented the warm sauce well),

to a Seafood Enchilada (shrimp, sea bass, scallops...tasty),

to the Tamale special (best tamale ever!),

to a rather disappointing skirt steak Fajita (too much work! and the huge skillet plus the big plate of "toppings" plus the basket of tortillas left little room on the table. AND no plate to assemble everything on...)

I love the use of pepitas in the rice. A nice crunchy texture and nutty flavor.

Dessert was, of course, Bananas Dulce which I can never seem to pronounce without using the Italian "ch" sound. It just sounds better that way. A big mound of coconut ice cream, self-topped with a banana fried in a brown sugar sauce. Very sweet, but perfect when split four ways.

Cactus is just so delicious. It breathes the life of summer into town. The recipes are inventive and full of healthy ingredients...even my naturopath loves the place! But so do the tons of other Eastsiders who jam the patio on any given sunny day.


Jenn said...

I love Mexican food. I want to try those enchiladas!

alice said...

I am sad to admit I've never had the pleasure of eating in Kirkland. I'm not even sure why. But I'm glad you had a beautiful warm day to enjoy dinner. I'm going to remember this review next time I'm on the Eastside.

Jo said...

Oh wow! How I wish I was there right now .. love tex mex food.

Kelly said...

Everything looks great! The Bananas Dulce made my mouth water. Seriously!

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