Cactus Bistro opened early in 2012 and quickly gathered quite a following. They have also been nominated as one of the Best New Restaurants in the Hale’ Aina Awards held annually by Honolulu Magazine. I am one of those who voted for them at the time, as all of the above is totally deserved.
I was, once again, happy to discover that they also follow the local, organic, sustainable philosophy in their selection of ingredients. As you should know by now, this is a BIG plus, and restaurants get extra kudos from me when they follow these tenets.
I have now been to Cactus Bistro three times for lunch and I have thoroughly enjoyed each time. Let me also mention all the oohs and aaahs I have heard from my co-dining friends and the other diners around us. I have not had dinner there yet, but certainly plan to, and soon. The dinner menu shares the same appetizers and salads, and has a much richer entree section, or Platos de Fondos.
The food carries the flavors of Central and South America, as well as Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico, all with a creative twist and a touch of Aloha.
The ambiance is clean and light, and you get a nice view of the kitchen from the bar. The servers are friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about the food. Clearly, this is an establishment opened and run by a professional. And that makes me smile.
Everything we have tried has been excellent, and here is the mouthwatering list of what we have had so far, so you can start drooling.
Among the appetizers, or Pinchos & Shareables, and Salads:
House Made Argentine Fry Bread with Ewa Pineapple & Manzano Chile jelly; Cactus Guacamole with Poamoho organic Avocados, freshly made chips and tres salsas; Local Squash & Big Island Goat Cheese “Croquetas” with roasted Hau’ula Tomato-Chipotle sauce (image at the top of the post); Ceviche of the day; Poamoho Organic Grapefruit Salad with Big Isle hearts of palm, Jicama, Avocado, “Nalo” greens and a Citrus-Agave vinaigrette.
From the Taqueria: Kiawe Smoked Hamakua Mushrooms Tacos with charred Kahuku Corn, Goat Cheese, Avocado and Cilantro creme; Chile-Lime Marinated Kulana Flank Steak “Al Carbon” Tacos with grilled Ewa Green Onions, Avocado-Tomatillo salsa and Queso fresco; Rolled Quesadilla with Tres Quesos, roasted Chiles, charred corn, salsa Mexicana (to which you can add Jidori chicken Tinga, roasted local veggies, Shinsato pork Al Pastor, or Turkey Chorizo).
All tacos come with a choice of one side, and the sides available are: Red chile’ Sweet Potato frites; Smokey Black Beans; Vegan Refritos; Yucca Frita (my favorite); Coconut-Coriander Rice; local Vegetable slaw; “Nalo” farms Green Salad; Arroz verde; or freshly made Chips & Salsa.
From the Tortas & Platos de Fondo lunch section my friend Kim had the Sandwich “Cubano” with Shinsato Farms roast pork, Hobbs Bacon, Avocado, artisan Jack & pickled Chiles on Kakaako Roll, and she loved it, as we all loved our choices.
Being lunchtime, none of us had any cocktails or special drinks, though the list sounded tempting, especially their signature frozen Sangria. We did, however, enjoy a unique and delicate Hibiscus Lemonade, which comes with a refill.
Cactus Bistro largely features wines & liqueurs from Argentina, Chile and Peru, as well as from a few small wineries in Spain and Mexico.
Then it’s dessert time, so we let ourselves be tempted and shared two or three of the desserts.
About the desserts: the server explained that, since they had only been open a few months at the time, they had focused on the main menu, and initially out-sourced some of the desserts. The in-house made desserts were three, plus also house made sorbets and gelato. Over time, the plan is to create all desserts on site. Can’t wait to try them all!
What we did try, and enjoyed, were the divine Apple Banana & Chocolate Coyotas with Mexican Chocolate drizzle and Saffron Gelato; the Grilled Corn Cake with Raspberry Compote, Pop Corn and Vanilla Sauce; and the Tres Leches Cake. There is also a tempting Mexican Chocolate Cake but we’ll have to try that next time.
Although the server recommended it, I must say that I am not a fan of the Grilled Corn Cake and, when I called the other day, I was not disappointed to find out that the cake is no longer on the menu, and has been replaced by my favorite among favorites dessert: flan. I look forward to discovering what kind next time.
The Tres Leches Cake (not pictured) was one of the out-sourced desserts. I found the cake pod very good, but overall the cake lacked something… I’m not sure what, maybe juiciness. I have only tried about four different Tres Leches cakes, including this one, and never made one myself, so I do not know that I have a true bar of comparison for it. I am also not a fan of frosting, unless it’s fresh whipped cream, which makes my friend Valerie happy because she is: I get the cake and she gets the frosting.
If you would like to see a few more images, I took some with the iPhone and they are posted on my Food Journey Facebook page in the Fooding around O’ahu album.
To give you a ‘taste’ of the entrees on the dinner menu, here are a few that sound delicious:
Local Day Boat Fish in Fresh Banana Leaves with Coconut, Coriander Rice, charred Hau’ula Tomato, local seasonal Vegetables, Naked Cow dairy Butter with Chile and Lime; Malbec Braised Kuahiwi, Big Island, Grass Fed Beef Short Ribs with aromatic Vegetables, smashed Waianae Yucca with Chimichurri; Cilantro Risotto with Big Island Goat Cheese Mousse, charred Hau’ula Tomatoes, Kahuku Corn and Cotija Cheese; Bahian Style Seafood simmered in fresh Coconut Milk, Cedar Scholl’s Clams, Penn Cove Mussels, Molokai Shrimp, local day boat Fish with Rocoto Chile, Tahitian Lime, Fish fume’ and Yucca frita.
During the short break time between lunch and dinner, they serve a limited lunch menu: basically what is listed on the left column of the menu. On weekends, Cactus Bistro serves breakfast between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. I have not tried that yet, so it is now on my bucket list.
Oops, almost forgot: they happy hour is wonderful!! It gets busy, too, so get there early, as only tables by the bar are included in happy hour.
Go, enjoy and let me know what you think.
And if you are looking for more good food while on O’ahu: