Rack of lamb and scallops with sea bass are among the favorites at Wally's Desert Turtle .
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRANDON HARMAN
Wally’s Desert Turtle
71775 Highway 111
Take your seat at this swanky Steven Chase–designed restaurant, and the staff won’t greet you with the dinner menu. Rather, you’re invited to settle in, sip a top-shelf martini, and savor the company and conversation at your table. At Wally’s Desert Turtle, time slows down.
“We try to create an experience,” says third-generation owner Madalyn Botello, who grew up working at the Rancho Mirage restaurant that her grandfather, Wally, founded in 1978.
Botello, a Cornell University hospitality school alum, has enlivened offerings with her fresh perspective — bringing in boutique wines, elevating the outdoor scene, and adding creative twists to the nightly live music. What remains the same are Wally’s formal service standards, harking back to a glamorous, bygone era, and the elegant California cuisine that has developed a loyal patronage over decades.
Rather than one server, an entire service team takes care of your table. “After you receive your cocktails or wine, you’re greeted by the captain of the team, who introduces you to our menu,” Botello explains.
Beloved dishes such as tender rack of lamb, scallops with sea bass, and flavorful free-range chicken pair with sweet finishes from pastry chef Darcy Mass, including Wally’s signature Grand Marnier soufflé and a rich chocolate lava cake. Of course, the Golden Osetra caviar service is a dessert unto itself.
When you’re here, you will feel like the most important person in the room — as you should in one of the desert’s poshest restaurants.
“Fine dining is a lost art in a day when everyone is always moving fast,” Botello says. “We’re not trying to be a modern restaurant. We want people to feel they have stepped back in time and experience something different.”