Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Cactus – South Lake Union, Seattle

Posted on: Tuesday 06 December 2011

I walk through South Lake Union several times a week. The neighbourhood is busy during the week, especially on the Westlake thoroughfare from Whole Foods to Harrison. I noticed the construction site on the corner of Harrison and Terry many months ago and didn’t know it was Cactus until recently. I love the pink window frames!

Next to the trio of Tom Douglas restaurants in the Terry Avenue Building and opposite Portage Bay Café, it is an emerging dining hub. The eateries already do brisk business on weekdays but foot traffic is minimal on weekends.

Cactus is located in an elongated room with a high ceiling. A bar is at the entrance and the dining room splits to the right and left. A private function room is on the mezzanine level. Floor-to-ceiling glass filters in natural light and patterned cylindrical lampshades are elegant and muted in contrast to the colourful furnishings. Chairs were painted and upholstered in azure, lime, saffron and copper.

We were seated at a booth on a quiet Sunday lunch service. Hand painted motifs featured on each wooden table. The modern and vibrant space is welcoming and cheerful.

Mango agua fresca, a fizzy beverage of agave nectar, fresm lime, mango, mint and sparkling water was refreshing.

The other Cactus restaurants are in Alki Beach, Kirkland and Madison Park and each has a unique logo which is printed on the serviettes.

We nibbled on salsa, guacamole and corn chips while we perused the menu. The salsa casera, homemade salsa, was appetisingly piquant.

A basket of warm corn chips was plentiful for the bowl of guacamole. Avocado, cilantro, lime, onion, serrano chillis and pico de gallo mashed together as a chunky dip.

Mr S selected the fajitas with grilled skirt steak. A plate of condiments and warm flour tortillas accompanied the sizzling skillet of Spanish rice, cumin black beans and caramelised onions. There is a rustic charm in wrapping ingredients and eating it by hand.

There are two tacos per serving and the kitchen kindly accommodated my request to mix and match. Spanish rice and cumin black beans were requisite for a Mexican meal.

On a house made white corn tortilla, the pescado had a fillet of battered fish, coriander and pasilla coleslaw, pico de gallo and buttermilk crema. A little soggy, the flaky white fish absorbed the tangy flavours that were tempered by the squirt of buttermilk crema.

The second taco was carnitas Yucatecas, Carlton Farms pork in achiote marinade and roasted in banana leaves, caramelised pineapple, Cotija cheese and red onion escabeche. It is a delectable combination of tender meat, sweet pineapple and pickled onions.

Flan is a one of my favourite desserts and this three milk Cuban flan is one of the best I’ve tasted. The sepia toned custard was poised in a puddle of sticky sauce. It was firm, smooth and creamy, topped with a vanilla speckled layer of caramel.

Cactus is a welcomed addition to South Lake Union!

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