This is one cactus that definitely won’t leave you high and dryYou might expect a place with the word “cactus” in its name to serve up southwestern U.S. or Mexican cuisine with a kick. But the Cactus California Bar & Grill, located near the food court of Samsung Plaza in downtown Seoul, is modern American, borrowing liberally from tasty cuisines from all over the world. It’s not exactly fusion, but the selections definitely reflect the diverse culinary heritage of the Golden State.
The first thing you notice when you enter the restaurant is the open kitchen, with its brick oven and crew of busy chefs. To your right, a huge cactus ― what else ― welcomes you with arms open. Behind, there are booths with screens for privacy. On your left is the extremely well-stocked bar; with its open space and plentiful tables, it makes a great spot to relax with a group of friends and have a few drinks.
Cactus’s most popular dishes are its pizzas, fajitas and steaks. The mushroom pizza (15,000 won, or $12.80, for regular; 20,000 won for large) is unique.
“Although customers often find the green crust a bit peculiar, the herbs used in the pizza dough are for good for our customers’ health,” says head chef Park Jong-gon. The crispy, nicely bubbled crust, gooey cheese and tasty mushrooms were an excellent combination. Highly recommended.
Mr. Park also tries to put a few twists on the menu, like chopped beef steak and dim sum cooked au gratin (23,000 won).
The steak was tender and juicy, the dim sum was tasty ― and the whole thing was plenty cheesy. I found the seafood chow mein (20,000 won) a little bland, but the clam chowder (5,000 won) was impressive and full of chewy clams. Not to be missed.
Cactus recently introduced a salad buffet at lunch. It costs from 17,000 won to 27,000 won depending on which entree you choose to accompany the salad bar.
A full-course dinner is available for 35,000 won and includes smoked salmon, clam chowder, sauteed grouper, beef tenderloin and Bavarian mousse for desert.
Arrive at Cactus before 8 p.m. and you can have a half-liter of draft beer on the house with the purchase of any appetizer. The draft beer is kept chilled to 4 degrees centigrade, or about 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Imported bottled beers are available too.
Two rooms ― one seats 30, the other 12 ― are available for private get-togethers.
California Bar & Grill
Telephone: (02) 751-2111
Location: Near food court in Samsung Plaza
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. for dinner, Monday to Friday
Credit cards: Accepted
by Eugine Oh