Culina Highlands, Edmonton

For Mother’s Day, I treated my mom to a brunch at Culina Highlands. I’ve been wanting to try this place for a while now, and unfortunately never did make it there when the location was a previous restaurant named Bacon. Having been to Culina Mill Creek before, however, I knew that I could expect some good quality food.

Like their sister Mill Creek location, Culina Highlands is a small venue. It’s quite warm and comfortable, and with the sun shining through the large windows the place was nicely lit up. Many people ate out back since it was such a nice day.

tea and water

tea and water

For drinks we were served water in a wine bottle, just like they do in Culina Mill Creek. I ordered a pineapple, coconut and rooibos tea from local store Cally’s Teas, and my mom was given a complimentary Prosecco mimosa. The mimosa was very tasty and had a good balance of wine and orange juice. The tea wasn’t bad; you could taste a hint of coconut and fruitiness but otherwise it didn’t stand out to me compared to other teas I’ve had in the past.

Prosecco mimosa

Prosecco mimosa

Mom had a very filling tofu scramble with spicy tomato sauce, mushrooms, quinoa, chickpeas and cashew cheese served with vegan toast. The quinoa gave the scramble a nice texture and the whole mix tasted vaguely of curry. The toast was slightly crisp and was very light.

tofu scramble

tofu scramble

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Cactus Club Cafe, Edmonton

Some friends and I planned a dinner out on Saturday, April 25th, so I suggested we try out the newly opened (as in opened two days before on the 23rd) Cactus Club Cafe location over at West Edmonton Mall. Edmonton used to have a local location of this Western Canadian chain a long time ago, but it didn’t fare very well and closed relatively quickly.

Despite its brief stint in Edmonton, the Cactus Club Cafe has been around for many years. More recently in the past few years, much like how Earls and Moxie’s is also doing, the Cactus Club Cafe is working to make their menu, decor and atmosphere more sophisticated. When (Canadian celebrity chef and  Iron Chef America winner against Masaharu Morimoto) Chef Rob Feenie’s assocation ended with Vancouver’s Lumiere and Feenie restaurants, he later popped back into the public eye as the new “Food Concept Architect” for the Cactus Club Cafe. They’ve used his name to great advantage; his face is all over the website, he often talks to the media about the food at the Cactus Club Cafe, and all of his specific dishes are marked on the menus with a special RF logo.

As the restaurant had just opened, I half-expected service to be a bit slow but all of the staff were unfailingly attentive and helpful, and the food arrived quickly. (Other blogs and Chowhound discussions say that staff were flown in from Vancouver to ensure smooth service.)

The restaurant is located in a free-standing location in the northwest corner of the mall where a car repair shop used to be (Sears, I think). There is no entrance via the mall at all; an interesting decision that I hope doesn’t hurt them later when the tourists and locals stay inside the mall and don’t want to walk outside in bad weather.

The decor is modern but comfortable, with a mix of different textures and materials. Red leather seats, wood panelled walls and tables, glass, and even a concrete block wall gives the place an interesting look. The lights are dimmed somewhat so the red of the seats are muted. The booths are spacious, and art is featured on many of the walls (including some from Andy Warhol). A large patio was already set with lounge-style outdoor furniture, although at the time it was still too chilly for people to sit outside.

To start, a couple of people ordered bellinis and promptly declared them delicious. (Sorry, no photo. They stirred and slurped the drinks before I could take the camera out.)

We all shared a couple of appetizers. The first dish was an order of calamari, red pepper and jalapeño, dusted with fresh dill and served with chipotle aioli and tzatziki dips. The calamari was tender and the jalapeños gave the dish a lot of heat. (Lots and lots of heat.)

calamari

calamari

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