Cactus Pear (Blue Ash)
9500 Kenwood Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45242
Mon-Thurs: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fri: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Sat: 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Appetizers: $8 – $10
Entrees: $10 – $20
Desserts: $4 – $6
There is this restaurant that I’ve often seen when driving through Blue Ash, and I keep meaning to stop at but never made it. It’s tucked away in a strip mall but its sign is easily seen from the road. Cactus Pear. A “southwestern bistro” serving “the finest foods using exciting flavors from both sides of the border.”
Exciting flavors? Okay! Let’s go!
As we walked up to the building I saw on the window a “Where The Locals Eat Top 100 Winner” sticker on their door. Alright, even more interested. As we walked in the building was pretty clean, but also devoid of any customers. The interior is nicely decorated with warm earthy tones on the walls and wood flooring. As nice as it is, it was even nicer outside, so we decided to take advantage of the nice weather and sit outside on their patio.
We were seated almost immediately and the waiter took our drink order and said he’d be back in a minute with them and the chips with salsa. So we sat and read over the menu, and read over the menu, and read over the menu. I was struck by how little of the food was actually southwestern, although some of it was labled as “southwestern-style-____.” The Indian menu taped to the inside threw me for a loop too. Maybe it was our indecision that made it seem so, but the waiter took a mighty long time to come back with the drinks and chips & salsa.
Now, I’ve heard a lot about these chips and salsa. Apparently they are supposed to be great. The chips were standard as far as chips go, so nothing major there. The roasted tomato and corn salsa was certainly different from most other restaurants, but I was overall pretty neutral to it. It was okay and I sat and ate several, but I’ll never crave them or want to come back for them.
After ten minutes we still couldn’t decide what to get, so we ordered an appetizer to start. Adam thought the Flameado, which is a small casserole of chorizo sausage, caramelized onions and poblano peppers baked with cheese on top and served with flour tortillas on the side, looked best. We pretty much skipped most of the tortillas as they are cumbersome to deal with. It sounded delicious, and this is one of the few times that a description has ever fooled me. I took one bite of it and about choked it was so awful. I’m pretty sure it was the chorizo that ruined it for me, since the flavor was like melted plastic with cheese on top. Adam thought it was good, but I couldn’t eat any more.
We went to Cactus Pear hoping for some good southwestern/Tex-Mex food and it was slowly becoming clear that wasn’t going to happen. So, on a whim we also ordered the Lamb Curry off the Indian menu. It was a very mild cream and tomato curry with lamb and cashews on top of rice, and bread on the side. When it came to our table, it was warm but not hot. It pretty much lives up to the description: mild. It wasn’t a bad dish by any means, but it was lacking something; Inspiration, flavor – I couldn’t really put my finger on it. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, it was just okay. It was, however, my favorite dish we tried.
While eating our Lamb Curry the waiter came back to get our orders, and by this time we were ready. I chose the Steak Fajitas, which came sauteed with peppers and onions. On the side were flour tortillas, black beans, rice, lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream. The black beans seemed a bit out of place… Kind of like an after thought. They were bland too. The fajitas themselves were drowning in cooking oil, and tasted pretty boring aside from the strong pepper flavor. The beef was tough and overcooked, which also contributed to it’s blandness and a sore jaw.
On the other hand Adam ordered the Tamales of Beef, one of the few really Mexican dishes on the menu. It contained braised sirloin and peppers over corn masa and steamed in corn husks with tomatillo sauce and lemon sour cream on top and the obligatory black beans and rice on the side. Adam said that it was good but frankly unremarkable. I didn’t really care for the tomatillo sauce and lemon sour cream that topped it, but I have to say I agree with Adam’s assessment of it – good but boring.