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“Disappointing food, disappointing price, and disappointing service.” 1 of 5 stars
Review of Cactus

767 Kailua Road Suite 106, Kailua, Oahu, HI 96734
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Ranked #16 of 126 Restaurants in Kailua
Price range: $8 - $25
Cuisines: Brazilian, Chilean, Latin, Mexican
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Outdoor seating
Dining options: Reservations
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Cross street: Hamakua Drive
Transit: Bus 57
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
15 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
“Disappointing food, disappointing price, and disappointing service.”
1 of 5 stars Reviewed July 28, 2012

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.

  • Visited July 2012
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
    • 1 of 5 stars Food
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80 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Any
English first
Kailua, Hawaii
Senior Contributor
23 reviews 23 reviews
15 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
“Class comes to Kailua”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 29, 2012

After living here for 9 years I am so pleased to find a restaurant of this quality in Hawaii, even better that it's in Kailua, my home town.

Unfortunately typical restaurants here are rated by the portion size rather than the quality of the food. But this restaurant isn't typical. For those who care, I found the portion sizes more than adequate - combined with a nice appetizer, no one left hungry.

We started with the Cactus Guacamole and the Squash and Goat Cheese Croquetas. The Guacamole came with fried tortilla chips and three salsas. This was my favorite, the ingredients were fresh, the salsas spicy enough to have flavor but not alienate my youngest daughter. The Croquetas were good, hot, and crispy. A little more squash came out than I like, but nonetheless, good stuff.

For main I had the crispy potato and taro croquetas. Delicious and well cooked. The strongest flavor is the sauces (in all the dishes, the sauces were very well done!). The croquetas were nicely crisp and the cheese and vegetable flavors worked together very well. (note: Taro can impart a rather odd color to things, the inside of the croquetas is a pale blue-grey, don't worry it's supposed to look like that!).

My wife had the Masa Crusted Chicken Breast. Too much animal matter for me to try, but she rated it high, again a special mention for the sauce.

Oldest daughter had the Wood Roasted Island Vegetable Enchilada. This is a stacked enchilada absolutely made by the sauces. They used both a red and green sauce - I loved the red sauce, subtle pepper taste with a good hint of smokiness.

Youngest daughter had Feijoada, essentially beans and rice. I did not get to taste this and she being an unadventurous type didn't have much to say about it.

Service was pretty good - only a minor issue in getting sprayed by the bus boy refilling waters.

The atmosphere is perhaps the low point, and it's not so much the interior (though we were there early and others have complained about the noise) - it's that the location sits right at a very busy corner and I found the traffic about 15ft from my table and out a big window to be distracting. I think a low curtain or some other sort of visual block would help a lot. I really liked the interior decor, clean and simple with subtle decoration - though this may account for the noise problems.

Cactus is our new "special occasions" restaurant and we will be back!

Oh, reservations are recommended - it's a small place and very busy for the Thursday night we were there.

  • Visited June 2012
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kaneohe, Hawaii, United States
1 review
“Surprisingly Healthy but Disappointingly Loud”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed June 21, 2012

We went last week with friends for dinner. The food was better than I had hoped for. The flavors were very different - South American, with emphasis on vegetables, light on meat and cheese. The portions are on the small side, but it is a Tapas style menu. And I don't think it was expensive, even for the portion size.

The bar was extremely slow the night we went. I'll assume they're working that out. The big thing was the noise, which we were also told was being addressed soon. We'll go back in another month and try it again.

I'd recommend it and we'll be semi-regulars. KUDOS!

  • Visited June 2012
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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1 review
“Great New Restaurant”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 17, 2012 via mobile

My wife and tried Cactus recently and it far exceeded our high expectations. The menus is interesting and diverse. The food was absolutely fabulous and the service cheerful and professional. This is a great, sophisticated spot in a special spot in Oahu. We will return often. We could not be happier.

    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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Top Contributor
634 reviews 634 reviews
401 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 166 cities Reviews in 166 cities
453 helpful votes 453 helpful votes
“Painful to the Ears and lacking in quantity”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed May 29, 2012

I was warned about Cactus being loud and noisy, but I was surprised at how loud the restaurant was on the day we dined. For the record, I will try the place again this summer, however, it would have garnered a lower rating had the staff and our waitress not been so happy.
My lunch companion was a petite lady who I see as having a small appetite. Her lunch tacos were so small that we went for more food when we left. Quality usually outshines quantity except when the quantity comes across as almost an insult. Had her meal been labeled an appetizer or small dish we would have known what to expect.
I ordered a vegetarian meal that I misunderstood and was surprised to learn that it was really a sandwich and not a plate of grilled vegetables. I take responsibility for the misunderstanding. I, however, was bummed that the $12 sandwich was all bread with a small amount of veggies.
The soup was okay, but lack luster.
We opted to sit at one of the bar, tall tables that were too small for any guest having lunch. The single placemat was placed on the table and we had to share the sides. The tables would work for a bar area sans food.
I'm going to retry the restaurant this summer when I bring several other friends. They shared with us on the day we ate there that management was addressing sound issues and was aware of the other problems. We can only hope the place improves as it disappointed on our first visit.

  • Visited May 2012
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 2 of 5 stars Food
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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