Take an Indian restaurant in an outdoor mall setting. Add an owner who worked as a registered nurse for 23 years. Combine with a Mexican chef in the kitchen. (I can already sense the skepticism on your face, dear reader!) But in fact, Nancy Aziz’s Naan House Indian Cuisine—unassumingly located next to Red Robin and Curves, near Home Depot and Regal 16 Cinemas at Monterey Marketplace—is definitely award-worthy. Perhaps that’s because its Mexican chef has 32 years of Indian food experience, which he brings to his own and Aziz’s family recipes. It’s true that Naan House is the only Indian restaurant within Rancho Mirage’s borders. But even if it did have competition, it would still be the best in the city.
On the day a friend and I had lunch there, Nancy—a warm woman whose love for the restaurant business, and for her restaurant in particular, is obvious and infectious—was seating customers, talking up her menu, taking orders, and running food. Yet she still had the time to genuinely take care of us, not to mention expertly whip up a mean mango lassi. Beer and wine are also available.
Her concept for the last 18 months has been simple. Tuesday to Friday, a lunch buffet (which permanently boasts four classics: Daal Lentils, Palak Paneer, Tandoori Chicken, and Chicken Tikka Masala, plus a revolving array of five more selections) is $10.99 for all you can eat, including naan bread. On Saturday and Sunday, it’s $12.99, with the latter being a champagne brunch. There’s also an a la carte lunch menu, available from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. All the same fare—save for the buffet—is available at dinner, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
“The biggest misconception about Indian food is that it’s too hot and spicy,” says Aziz, who dispels that myth by always asking guests which level of heat they prefer. While my friend—a vegetarian—took advantage of the astounding array of meatless options on the buffet, I chose the $18.99 lamb shank special, which must be requested since it’s not advertised. We ended with homemade rice pudding and kulfi (a traditional Indian fruit ice cream). Needless to say, we left fat and happy…and we’ll be back. Often.