One of my favorite destinations is the Palm Springs area. My love affair with this beautiful oasis started way back in 1981 when I visited with my father and met with family members. We stayed in one of the suites at the Ranchos Las Palmas Resort located in Rancho Mirage. Everything was postcard perfect; the weather, the scenery without mentioning how distinguished the people were (and still are). Things haven’t changed much since then besides getting bigger with more residential gated communities, stores, restaurants and golf courses.
During our stay back in 1981, we went to some nice restaurants but the one that really made a huge impact on me is… Wally’s Desert Turtle. Every time I return to this gorgeous part of Southern California, I always make sure to reserve a table.
David and I were on vacation in Rancho Mirage for a couple of weeks and my birthday happened to coincide with our holidays. Obviously without an ounce of hesitation, my restaurant of choice was Wally’s when David asked me the rhetorical question of where I would like to go for dinner on my birthday.
There are dozens of reasons why Wally’s is “la crème de la crème” when it comes to dining out in the California desert. As soon as you drive up, a valet is there to greet you… and the magic begins! From there, you go up the stairs, enter the beautiful lobby with a warm welcome by Nicole and Michael the owners. Either they or Robert, the general manager, escort you to your table – reservations are a must but not a necessity because there is a bar area overlooking the elegant dining room where people can enjoy cocktails or wine with their meals, listening to the entertainer who’s playing.
The service is impeccable! Everyone is polite, efficient and provides great attention to detail. Their menu from appetizers to desserts meets everyone’s tastes along with a selection of fine wines. Although the dining room area is quite large, the sound is subdued and not overly loud so diners can enjoy the experience in this chic environment with dimmed lights and live music in the background.
As I mentioned earlier, we celebrated my birthday at Wally’s. My chosen appetizer was the Aspen Ridge Beef Carpaccio followed by a Sautéed Dover Sole Amandine, one of my favorites. David went for the Iceberg Leaves (Wedge Salad) and for his main course he had the Salmon Creek Pork Tenderloin. Though slightly tired from an early day golfing at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs, lunch with friends plus some shopping and a couple of drinks at our condo before going out for diner, the food and its presentation revived us! Each dish was succulent! As a couple, David and I love to taste each other’s meal and as always, we were impressed! We didn’t have any room for dessert but Wally’s went out of their way with graceful style to send me a lovely dessert plate with a selection of different sweet treats to celebrate my birthday.
Perhaps being tired or carrying just a small evening clutch, I forgot to take pictures of our meals so before we left the restaurant, I spoke with manager Robert Frechette and asked him if it was ok with him to come back and take some food pictures for my review. Robert graciously extended the invitation by inviting us behind the scenes in the kitchen and meeting with Chef Pascal Lallemand and his staff. Oh my! What a huge privilege I couldn’t possibly refuse especially at my all-time favorite restaurant!
I was on cloud nine and went back last Thursday for pictures.
Chef Pascal was a delight and the attention to detail in the preparation and presentation of each plate was phenomenal! The perspective from the kitchen shows you that perfectionism is a very high priority at Wally’s. Nothing goes out the kitchen doors if it’s not impeccably done for the pleasure of both the palate and the eyes. After taking a few pictures, we left Chef Pascal Lallemand and his helpful staff and went to the bar area to sip a fine glass of Pinot Gris, listening to the talented John Bolivar’s music.
Although we were leaving the next day, we could not resist eating once again at this impeccable restaurant. We were seated in the dining room and ordered something different from my birthday dinner. This time we shared Escargots of Burgundy for an appetizer and then I went with the Manila Clam Vongole while David chose a Maple Leaf Seared Duck Breast. All the dishes were scrumptious and provided the final touch to our picture-perfect vacation!
Wally’s Desert Turtle is THE sophisticated fine dining experience that shouldn’t be missed while visiting the Palm Springs area. There’s no need to dine at this restaurant only on special occasions because the professionalism of the staff from the kitchen to your table including the warmth of the owners and the manager and the delicious outstanding food with an impeccable wine selection will make your evening extraordinary!
I would like to take this opportunity to convey a special thank you to Mr. Robert Frechette the manager at Wally’s, who through many years of going to my favorite restaurant has always been a great pleasure to see. This gentleman always takes the time to chat with me for a few moments and makes Wally’s even more special! Merci énormément Robert pour nous avoir donner l’occassion de prendre les photos dans la cuisine et chaque fois de venir nous saluer… tu es superbe! I also want to send out a big thank you to Chef Pascal Lallemand who invited us into his kitchen with friendliness and grace… what an amazing experience! Let’s not forget our charming hosts and owners, Michael and Nicole Botello. To all of you, thank you for making our experience at Wally’s once again… unforgettable!
Wine & Restaurant Aficionado