Through The Pines – St. Georges Terroir Gin, Aperol, Giffard Pink Grapefruit, Lime, Tonic, Rosemary
Focaccia, Black Salt and Butter
Raclette Fondue – Intuitive Forager Seasonal Crudites
Hummus, Baba Ganoush & Tzatziki – Herb Garlic Flatbread
Black Garlic Caesar – Parmesan, Poppy Seed Tuille, Poached Egg, Black Truffles
Roasted Beets – Goat Cheese Souffle, Onion Soil, Fine Herbs
2014 Von Winning “Winnings” Riesling
Lion Fish Ceviche – Coconut, Ginger, Aji Amarillo, Tempura Shiso Leaves
“California” Crab Roll – Avocado, Puffed Rice
Kona Kampachi Crudo – Beet Cured, Pickled Cauliflower, Citrus Crema
Beef & Octopus Carpaccio – Gremolata, Brioche
Fried “Chicken Oysters” – Lardo, Spinach Espuma, Lemon Butter
Beef Cheek Potato Raviolo – Shaved Pecorino, Smoked Tomato Cream
Turkey, Ham & Swiss Meatballs – Gruyere, Jamon Iberico, Creamy Peppercorn Sauce
Saffron Risotto Fruitti Di Mare – Prawns, Clams, Mussels, Crab
Veta La Palma Sea Bass – Chimichurri, Lemon
2012 Chateau de Beaucastel Mourvedre Blend
Sheep Ricotta Tortellini – Duck Confit, Fava Beans, Parmesan Emulsion, Black Truffles
4x Seared Ribeye Cap & Eye – Sea Salt Soy, Mirin, Uni
White Asparagus & Truffles – Perfect Poached Artisanal Farms Egg, Espelette Hollandaise
Roasted Spaghetti Squash – Candy Stripe Beets, Walnuts, Vegan Truffle Cheese
Veal Wellington – White Asparagus, Oyster Bread Pudding, Bordelaise
Double Espresso on Ice
Artisanal Cheeese Selection – Honey Comb, Onion Jam, Persimmon Mostarda, Apricot Puree, Huckleberries, Apple, Marcona Almonds
Apple, Oats & Persimmon Crostata – Mascarpone Chantilly, Maple Ice Cream
Cold Pressed Coffee Panna Cotta – Huckleberry, Brown Butter, Lavender Ice Cream
Cheesecake Three Ways – Blue, Brie, Aged Cheddar
Salted Almond Truffle Tart – Chocolate Butter
Foie Gras Martini – Truffle Cotton Candy
Macarons – Yuzu, Coffee and Mint
Having never visited either of Charlie Palmer’s Las Vegas restaurants, but having enjoyed the cooking of Chef John Church at three different venues since becoming a resident, it was with great excitement that I entered Aureole at Mandalay Bay with a friend to check out a brand new concept, Chef Palmer in attendance throughout the evening but the menu itself very much the work of one of Las Vegas’ most respected local talents.
Long considered one of the city’s most eye-catching rooms, the expansive dining area spreading out behind an enormous wine-vault where ‘angels’ rise upward to snag bottles throughout the night, “Aureole 2.0” looks to reclaim relevance through renovation in a city where many would simply blow-up the idea and rebuild from scratch, the prices and ideas still ‘fine dining,’ though the menu format has shifted to a small-and-large-plates format with sections divided into root, surf and ranch.
Dining at room’s center, the space quiet until approximately eight o’clock when several larger parties were seated almost simultaneously, it was with carte blanche given to Chef Church that the night unfolded, Chef Palmer stopping by each table several times to make sure all were enjoying dinner while the MGM Vice President of Dining Operations was also in attendance throughout the meal.
Admittedly known to Johnny, both present at the table having enjoyed dinner with him at 35 Steaks + Martinis earlier this year, it was with VIP-treatment that the meal got underway just minutes past 6pm, a bright herbal Cocktail suggested by the server providing a refreshing way to start as course one included housemade Bread service plus two Vegetarian plates, the Mediterranean trio a great choice for sharing given its classic flavors and large portion while the Raclette Fondue is an equally sizable ‘must-order’ with a creamy pool of Cheese spread beneath crisp Vegetables from the Intuitive Forager.
Presenting two Salads before progressing to ‘surf,’ the Beet Salad par for the course while a made-to-order Caesar was upgraded from great to exceptional by way of a liberal tableside shaving of Black Truffles, it was at the recommendation of a young female Sommelier that plates five through eight were paired to a crisp yet fruity Riesling, Chef Church’s Lion Fish Ceviche making great use of the invasive with light spice and bold aromatics while the raw Kampachi was beautifully painted with Citrus alongside pickled and earthy flavors.
Having seen a similar Beef and Octopus preparation at The Hard Rock, this version equally good but essentially no different save for the plating, Aureole’s Crab Roll was unfortunately in desperate need of some Salt to highlight the mild ingredients, a follow-up trio of Chicken Oysters, a Potato Raviolo and Gruyere-stuffed Meatballs suffering in no such way as both the tender make-shift Peirogi in Tomato Sauce and the IKEA-inspired orbs bested their ethnic counterparts by several degrees.
Unknowingly not yet at the half-way mark, a total of twenty-five menu items sent out during a four hour stay, plates twelve and thirteen offered Palmer’s Saffron Risotto chock-full of fresh Seafood alongside a $110 Sea Bass, the mostly-deboned fish presented whole with crispy-Skin up beneath a spritz of Lemon and spoonfuls of piquant green Sauce.
Continually treated to flawless service, drinks promptly filled and plates cleared as finished, heavier Meats found themselves complimented by a glass of 2012 Chateau de Beaucastel, the Sheep Ricotta Tortellini amongst Sin City’s best Winter dishes with Duck Confit and Parmesan Emulsion ready to carry the Black Truffle aromatics while the White Asparagus dish does similar with a bit of spiciness and the richness of one of Artisanal Farm’s intense yellow Eggs.
Pleased by the Ribeye, but wowed by a Christmas Special of fork-tender Veal Wellington and golden Bread Pudding that would be well served to join the menu in full-time form, another stunner from the Root menu was the Vegan-friendly Roasted Spaghetti Squash dotted in Beets, Nuts and Pepitas with a pleasant top-note added by crumbles of non-dairy Truffle ‘Cheese.’
At this point wishing one or two more guests would join the table, a short break and some Espresso thankfully providing a bit of time to digest, Dessert was no less a show than the savories leading up to it, the artisanal Cheese selection or Brie, Cheddar and Blue-Cheesecakes perfectly-tailored to wine-centric patrons – with the latter really quite special – while the Crostata and Tart tended more classic; a Foie Gras Martini referencing Chef Church’s time at Andre’s as the Coffee Panna Cotta provided the perfect combination of silky texture and mild sweetness at the end of a meal that redefined decadence.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: No doubt pricy compared to the rest of Mandalay Bay, the average check even without wine likely to set all but the most selective back over one-hundred dollars each, Chef Church and his team have breathed new life into a restaurant long forgotten by many, all but one of over two-dozen plates speaking to quality ingredients and skilled craftsmanship with plenty of options for both Omnivores and Vegans – from the convention crowd and those more adventurous.
RECOMMENDED: Raclette Fondue, Kona Kampachi Crudo, Beef Cheek Potato Raviolo, Veta La Palma Sea Bass, Sheep Ricotta Tortellini, Roasted Spaghetti Squash, Cheesecake Three Ways, Apple, Oats & Persimmon Crostata. (Veal Wellington, if available.)
AVOID: “California” Crab Roll was underseasoned and excessively priced compared to other choices while the Foie Gras Martini is definitely an acquired taste, good for fans of Duck Liver but likely to turn others away.
TIP: Suggested Wine pairings are offered at two-different price-points for each and every course via numbers on the menu, though Sommeliers are readily available to offer additional advice. A tasting menu is also coming soon.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.