Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hoping Kaiser Grill Will Continue Our Roll in the Desert

Kaiser Grille
74-040 Highway 111
Palm Desert, CA 92260

My parents 50th anniversary weekend in the desert was quickly coming to an end, and we wanted to finish it with a flourish. We could have gone to one of the national steak chain restaurants that are in town, but we could eat at one of those back in OC and it would have tasted just the same as it does in Palm Desert. No, we needed to take this opportunity to eat at a local spot. After scouring my usual resources for a restaurant, we ended up at Kaiser Grille.

The original Kaiser Grille, founded by Kaiser Morcus in 1992 was located not too far from this latest incarnation of Kaiser Grille. Mr. Morcus relocated from Vail, Colorado, and thought that the Coachella Valley would be a great place to retire. Retirement was not in the cards though, as he opened that restaurant, and then another, and soon the Kaiser Restaurant Group was born. Truly a family run business, his two sons, and a daughter also help manage their restaurants here in the Palm Springs area, and the famous Hog Breath Inn located in Carmel, which was once owned by Clint Eastwood. Other restaurants included in this restaurant group are The Chophouse, The Deck Restaurant and Sky Bar, Big Fish Grille, Fresh Grind Brgr Bar, and the Jackalope Ranch.

This Palm Desert location of Kaiser Grille used to be the site of Chophouse, which was retooled in 2014 into a Kaiser Grille and run by the very personable and quite impressive Eric Morcus. Eric just happened to be on hand on this evening and we had a quite a great conversation with him throughout our stay at his restaurant. Along with being very hands on in the restaurant, he also serves on various community and business associations, including being a Board Member of the Palms Springs Restaurant Association, Board Member of the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce, and President of Palm Springs Restaurant Week, among others. It's a wonder that he still has the energy to run his restaurant.

Kaiser Grille, located at the corner of Highway 111 and Portola, is kind of hard to miss with their large orange awnings providing some much-needed shade over their windows. Parking on this Saturday evening utilized a valet, and the restaurant is kind of tucked into the back corner of this small shopping plaza. Once past the hostess stand the bar and lounge area lead you into the dining room. There was some live music going on, which I thought was going to dominate the space, but it was just the right level as to not distract dining room guests. We were seated in a very comfy booth, which had a great view of the moderately busy happenings in the dining room on this evening.

The menu at Kaiser Grille has a little bit of everything for everyone at your table. Of course, there are red meat offerings, but there's plenty of fish, poultry, and pasta offerings as well. I was also pretty surprised to find so many specials used to entice diners to come in and give Kaiser Grille a try. They have sunset/early bird dinners which are very reasonably priced at $19.99, and happy hour every night with drink specials and discounts on over 20 food items. There are also three-course dinner options that run from $29 to $59 depending on your entree choice, which is reminiscent of many restaurant week menus we have participated in. With so much to take in, we had a hard time making up our minds, but we finally put in our order. Let's see if this visit to Kaiser Grille would be a fitting end to our desert anniversary celebration.

As is the case in most restaurants, after ordering we were brought out this bread basket filled with a generous supply of warmed sourdough bread. I loved the chewiness of this bread, and it went great with the provided butter. It was hard to restrain ourselves from a second basket but we managed.

My mom is a sucker for Chicken Tortilla Soup ($7), so she gave the version at Kaiser Grille a try. I have to admit I really enjoyed this version, which was spicier than most and the chicken was actually very tender. With my meal, I had the choice of salad or soup, and I could not resist trying their Castroville Cream of Artichoke Soup ($7). This was a very creamy and muted soup which was very pleasing. The artichoke flavor kind of lingered in the background, which made this a very subtle soup.

Katie is a Caprese Salad ($12) fiend, so it was a no brainer that she would order it on this evening. This version had plenty of fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic glaze, and of course mixed greens. Katie liked the manageable bite sized balls of mozzarella used here and she recalls that each bite of this salad burst with flavor.  

We might as well finish off Katie's food on this evening, as she got this Pan Seared Salmon ($28) as her entree. This salmon was served over a bed of brussel sprout hash which consisted of mushrooms, caramelized onions, bacon, potatoes, and a touch of truffle oil. The fish was topped with a very well done yogurt dill sauce. Katie was pretty impressed with the way this salmon was prepared. It was light and flaky, and very fresh. She would have liked a tad more of the yogurt dill sauce though. The hash was full of flavor and very unique. A dish she would recommend to all salmon lovers.

My dad also went the seafood route with this Swordfish Special ($38) that was offered on this particular evening. I did not catch the description of this dish, but the swordfish came out perched on a bed of sauteed spinach, surrounded by a yellow sauce, with some tomatoes topping the fish. My dad was not a big fan of this plate. The swordfish was kind of boring, and whatever the yellow sauce was, did not really help matters too much. This was made much better when we asked for some tartar sauce to be brought out. Not something my dad would order again, even though the spinach was good.

I guess my family did not get the memo that Kaiser Grille is known for their steaks, as my mom also got something from the sea, a Crab Cake ($17). This crab cake was pretty good sized and came with a little coleslaw, which was the perfect sized meal for my light eating mother. The crab cake came topped with a beurre blanc sauce, which was thicker than most, but very tasty. The inside of the crab cake did have some filler in it, but there was also plenty of good tasting crab inside of it. My mom was very pleased with this meal.

Okay, I guess I shouldn't give my family a hard time about not ordering steak here, as I did not try red meat at Kaiser Grille either. I could not get away from this Pork Chop Special ($29) when our server was going through the specials. This was one of the 3-course dinner options on this evening, and it was excellent. This bone in pork chop was huge and came with a blackberry compote which went well here. The pork was moist and tender and cooked to perfection. A good quality and clean tasting chop. I could not resist eating the meat off of the bone at the end of my meal. The mashed potatoes and sliced carrots that came with this were okay, but could not come close to outshining the pork.

After our entree plates were cleared away, our table quickly looked like a dessert buffet. Since I had told them about my parents anniversary when making the reservations, they gave us a dessert, and my meal came with a dessert, and I'm not really sure where our third dessert came from. I actually liked the Black and White Mousse the best. It was a simple dessert done well. The mousse was smooth and creamy, and I liked combining the two flavors in the same bite. As is my usual, I left the fresh berries to someone else. My parents had a Creme Brulee the first night of our weekend, and they liked this version at Kaiser Grille better than that one and I think I would have to agree. It had a nice crystallized crust topping it, and the custard inside was sweeter and creamier than the one we had our first night in the desert.

Kaiser Grille was a very nice end to our weekend in the desert. With the exception of my dad's swordfish dish, we all had a very pleasant dinner on this evening. It's true that this is not the same quality of food you can get at Maestro's or any other high-end national steak chain restaurant, but it will not set you back a paycheck and a half either. I appreciated all of the specials that they offer here, and feel it's a great way to entice people to give them a try, which judging from the pretty full dining room, it seems it might be working. Service on this evening was excellent, and we loved getting to know Eric Morcus and his family's story. It was also a great weekend of celebrating my parents and showing them how much we love and appreciate them.

Out of five footballs, (because as I was doing research for this review, I learned that Kaiser Morcus was a personal friend of President Ford, who played football at Michigan before becoming a politician), five being best to zero being worst, Kaiser Grille gets 3.5 footballs.

For more information about Kaiser Grille, head to their website here:

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