The Grill on Hollywood: Liver Let Die

When The Grill at Hollywood and Highland invited us to try their Liver Lover's Extravaganza (OK, I made that name up) which will be featured from April 19th to the 26th, I agreed under one condition — that my mother accompany me. Let's just say we had a score to settle.

The Grill on the Alley opened in Beverly Hills in 1984 and has since expanded to four locations in California as well as in three other states. The Grill at Hollywood and Highland is the fourth "The Grill", opened in 2001. In spite of being located in a giant outdoor mall in the heart of touristy Hollywood, the warm tones and rich leathers make an elegant white tablecloth steakhouse. I can't help but imagine what a nice place this would be for a business dinner.

The evening started off innocuously enough with some lovely doots — crab cakes chock full of crabmeat, adorable little caprese skewers with tomatoes that exploded on the tongue, fresh ahi and avocado chips and thinly sliced salmon (OK, gravlaax). There was a mix-your-own martini bar with a choice of straight up vodka ("The CEO"), grapefruit, or blood orange martinis. Some bartenders would argue that the fruit drinks were actually cocktails, not "martinis". Nonetheless, the blood orange martini-slash-cocktail was delicious, so cold, freshly swirled with ice.

The starter was a light salad of endive, radicchio and romaine with bleu cheese and pecans. The bleu cheese was mellow and delicious, unlike the overwhelming bleu cheeses that used to be ubiquitous.

The calves liver was farmed in Pennsylvania and served at 6 to 7 months old. According to the chef, "We have been serving liver at The Grill since, well, since we opened, and we actually do it quite well. Its actually one of our signature dishes. We sold anywhere between 20 and 25 livers a day, you get six to seven orders out of a liver." He went on to expound on the protein, B vitamins and other benefits of eating liver. But everyone was distracted choosing between the two offerings.

The liver was served either old-school style with bacon and onions, or with a Bordelaise sauce. When the plates arrived, we were all surprised by the hearty portions. It was more like pork loin, both in appearance and texture. The creamy, yet beefy meat had none of the powdery pencil eraser graininess or leatheriness of the liver we grew up with. If not for that unmistakable taste of organ, it might be hard to identify blindfolded.

Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining preferred the liver with Bordelaise, commenting that the rich wine sauce was " highlighting the liver's savory boldness and iron richness rather than its gaminess." Valentino of Trippyfood.com chose the Bordelaise, also observing, "The manager had paired the liver with a 2006 Herzog Special Reserve Merlot, which fortunately didn’t clash with the Bordelaise." My mom however, stuck stubbornly and faithfully with the liver and bacon.

"And how would you like that cooked, ma'am?"

"Overdone."

Accompaniments were a giant stalk of broccoli (is my mom actually snickering at me behind her napkin?). Other sides were brought out for us to test -- mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and my favorite, braised whole mushrooms.

The desserts, which we passed, were mind-blowing. The brownie pie coated in both chocolate and caramel sauce and studded with candied peanuts was tough competition alongside a traditional strawberry shortcake. The shortcake was properly laquered with a sweet coating outsied and a crumbly inside. The strawberries were intensely sweet. But they were no match for the Key Lime Pie, rich, creamy, and puckering with lime zest.

This is definitely a meal for grown-ups. If you are mature and can handle your meat, this is the special for you.