Before I begin this review, I would like to say that I especially love food and all of its natural glories. I grew up with eating different types of foods, from Samoan, to Hawaiian, Filipino, Chinese, Spanish, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Italian, Korean, and European foods, and I can say that I respect cultures and their cooks and their respect for keeping tradition, however, when it comes to this type of restaurant where a cook wants to create his interpretations of Latin dishes it fails, and loses my respect and interest.
My partner, father in law (whom both grew up in the Kailua area), and I were looking for a place to eat for dinner we were thinking about eating at our usual (latin - like eatery) however, we decided to try Cactus because we have been talking about it, and wondering what type of Latin food they served.
Fast forward, after driving around Kailua looking for somewhere good to eat, we decided on Cactus and walked in to the restaurant. If you are looking for a good view of the out-side, than you are out of luck as the restaurant is on the corner of Kailua Road and Hamakua, and you will be able to see a main intersection where cars, delivery trucks, skaters, bicyclist, and locals moving along. We went around 5:30pm and the sun was still up and literally hitting the small restaurant, so we decided to sit inside and avoid the car exhaust as well as the heat.
We got up to the reception desk and asked for a table, and this woman asked my group if we had a reservation because all of the tables are reserved. We looked around and there were only two groups sitting at two out of the 8 - 10 tables in the restaurant, and only 2 of the tables had a "reserved" card on the tables. And then, the woman asked if we would like to sit out-side, and I told her that we would prefer to sit inside as it is cooler, and then the woman asked if we would like to sit on the high-chairs, and we declined. My partner than asked to sit at a table and I could see that the woman was working through her own dilemma as she had this odd look on her face, and after making us wait while she traipsed around the small restaurant looking for a table to put my group on, she settled on a table that was right next to the kitchen and removed the "reserved" table card that was in the middle of it.
From this point on, we just wanted to get a menu and start looking for something to eat. We were all looking at the menu trying to figure out what was what as there was no key for the menu and neither of us recognized how this food was going to turn out.
So, finally our waitress stopped by out table to ask if we were ready to order, and I asked her "what type of food do you serve here" and she stated "our food is from all of the America's", I was thinking - what the heck? What does that even mean? From the interviews of the chef in the local newspapers and magazines, this restaurant is supposed to have food that represent Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexico, central, and south America. Our waitresses answers gave me a feeling that we were about to get a mash of all cultures and that no true flavor will present itself....and I was right.
I know Latin food, and I can tell you that this food was horrible and people are being cheated out of good tasting food that you can find elsewhere.
For appetizers, we ordered croquettes, which came very mushy, filled with zucchini, and hot sauce that over powered the dish. Surprisingly, the cilantro/olive oil sauce was great, however, it did not match the dish. (I get the croquettes as being "latin-like", but filling it with tasteless zucchini and mush, made me think that this was a rushed "go-to" dish for a cook and it failed.
My partners father had a steak dish around $20, my partner had this masa crusted chicken around $18, and I had enchiladas that had hamakua zucchini in it around $16.
Believe me, after a day of working, we were hungry and ready to dig in to our food.
Here's the gist of it, my partners masa crusted chicken was so dry that he wanted to ask for something to dip the chicken in. He said that it was bland, and that the beans the chicken sat upon should have had more flavor and less dry. He mentioned that the only flavor came from the cabbage that sat on-top of the chicken, however, it did not help that the rest of the dish was lacking.
My enchilada's were covered with a red sauce and a salsa verde, the verde was great, however, the sauces were so hot that all I could feel was the texture of the foods going into my mouth, but too hot to taste any of the foods on its own.
My father-in law said that his steak was good, but the side dishes had an odd texture, one had tomatoes in it and he said that it did not taste well, and the other looked like it was mixed collards and onions and lacking in flavor. The worst of it was that there were only 3 pieces of steak and that they were covered in fat....for $20 bucks, I say go to Mexico Lindo if you are in the area and get a carne asada plate with a drink (it will be worth it).
In closing, the quality of food was poor, and the price was too expensive for this...I wouldn't spend over $20 for all of this. It was disgusting and I will never go there again. The chef should probably stick to authentic Latin foods and maybe decide on choosing one type of food and go with it, as I think he has probably stretched himself too thin and used hot sauce to cover it up. It cost us $70.00 dollars for a meal and restaurant that didn't deserve it. I would not recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking for something new, but more so for someone who doesn't mind the meager, tasteless portions, of "latin-like" interpretations. Two positive things that I can say about the restaurant is that it was clean and the beer was good.
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