Aureole- Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay)
After spending some time at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens at the Bellagio, we went back to our room and then went out again! Unlike our previous meals however, this was planned out already. We had a 50 dollar dining certificate from Restaurants.com, free due to airline mileage (2000 miles=100 dollars in exchange). This is exactly the reason why I say, if you are flying somewhere, do sign up for a frequent flyer card if you are flying more than a thousand miles roundtrip as you can get something back easily! It was a easy choice for me to make. Although most of Mandalay Bay's restaurants are eligible for Restaurant.com, only two stood out for me: Aureole and Fleur De Lys. Aureole however seemed better in my book due to the fact I heard of it more from places like the Food Network.
(Awards- also a Photoshop rescued photo- or else the sides would have been completely dark)
After parking at Mandalay Bay, we arrived at the entrance of Aureole and was surprised at how dark it was! 5 years ago when I saw it during lunch, it was all bright and white, filled with light. I even decided not to bring the external flash due to knowing the amount of light available. It ended up being a bad decision! However, Photoshop came to the rescue, but I forgot about it while I was taking the pictures. So yes, there are photos with flash this time. I know most people go against flash in a restaurant, but I didn't have any other choice except it or else all the photos would be blurry due to the exposure length (1-2 seconds). Luckily, there was no one sitting in my direction while I took the flash pictures. After we were almost done with our meal, people started to sit in my direction though. Nice thinking, I would say to the staff.
Going into Aureole was unusual. Instead of someone greeting you at the door, you had to go down the stairs which wrapped around the 6 story wine rack or go down the elevator, which was simple with just a small floral arrangement for decoration. After I took this photo, a wine angel who was getting a wine bottle waved hi to me. How nice!
When we arrived downstairs, we first noticed the lounge area in the back as we were from the elevator. People coming down the stairs would meet the greeting area.
(Special Plates that are taken away before you have bread! And see the high ISO makes some noise.)
After we were set with our reservation, we were given a table with almost the dimmest light in the entire restaurant. Definitely not great for picture taking, but coming here was for a memorable meal, yes? Pictures were just a bonus for you and me.
After taking a seat at our table, our leather covered Aureole-Las Vegas folders with the current menu inside arrived. I did not take pictures of them but luckily the menu was available on Charlie Palmer's website! The server went through the menu with us as we replied to him that we had never been to Aureole before, and offered a few suggestions.
At around 6-7PM, there were just a few customers, but as it reached around 8 P.M., loads of convention members were coming into the restaurant and what used to be silent became a muffled chatter. Families started to arrive, some with tired kids, some happy for dinner. What faced me to the front was completely empty, as you see in the photo. This proved to be good for using my flash- I would not directly annoy someone with the flash pointed right at them!
The interior was beautiful, but I never even walked past our table which was quite near the wine tower. So I pretty much never saw the rest of the restaurant! The tables were set fully with two forks, knives, butter knives, et cetera. Simple in design but elegant Aureole plates were set up for decoration at first and were taken away after the request for drinks. A oil light and flower vase were also set in the middle, then put to the side if the table was square shaped. Aureole did look bland at first as it was mainly white near the entrance, but inside, there were large windows thanks to Mandalay Bay's architecture and warm colors.
While we were waiting there was a photographer with a Nikon camera and external flash placed to the side (I wish I had the side attachment for more flexibility) coming for pictures. We turned down the request for pictures to be taken but others took the request and thus the flash went off several times, brightly over the towering walls near the wine rack. This was the thing that made me want to use flash later on! She used it, so I'd use it too.
(yet another blurry Charlie Palmer tray of bread!)
Bread soon came, and there were four choices: focaccia, whole wheat, pretzel bread, and baguette. I ended up trying all of them, the focaccia/whole wheat being samples from my dining companions. We were all very happy with the bread and truly, the bread was a step above from other places, even Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza (Aureole is also a C.P. restaurant). Even served cold, you could really taste all the textures and the flavors of the breads, usually which are diminished in lesser breads. The foccacia was soft with some sun dried tomato and herbs used for flavoring. Whole wheat was whole wheat, but with a very pleasant bite to it. The pretzel bread was a bit hard on the outside, with the usual pretzel flavors concentrated on the outside and less on the inside. The baguette crunched as I tore it apart and eating it, it had a crispy with a good bite outside and a tender, full of different textures inside. (does that make sense in any way???)
(not zooming in to not make the aperture smaller!)
Served along with the bread were two medallions of unsalted butter housed in a nice butter dish with a cute silver dome. Bread came back two times later on. And while we waited, our hot waters came. The best remedy to heal a sore throat!
And of course, lemons would be a good side addition, so we asked for some. They came in a beautiful blue tinted glass plate.
Soon, we ordered, and one of my companions ordered the seasonal tasting menu:
Chef Vincent Pouessel's three course tasting
based on the seasons freshest ingredients
Purple and White Dutch Asparagus
-with Prosciutto de Parma/Warm Tomato and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Oven Roasted Wild Northwest Halibut
-Preserved Lemon and Parsley Risotto/Lobster Foam
Strawberry and Mint Infused Creme Brulee Mille Feuille
65USD per person
My other dining companion and I ordered from the regular menu, and just ordered entrees for then. No appetizer for us! Besides, who knew if I could eat more just yet...
Only my dining companion who had the tasting menu had an appetizer: the Purple and White Dutch Asparagus with Prosciutto de Parma/Warm Tomato and Balsamic Vinaigrette. There was plenty of fat sticks of white and purple asparagus, a large piece of prosciutto, and a salad mix. Nice presentation too and large serving size! What more was how tasty everything was. The asparagus was tender and crisp, with none of the gristle. They were lightly blanched and then shocked in ice cold water to make them cool and retain their looks. Who knew asparagus could taste so good! Not oily at all, but very clean and flavorful. With the sauce, which had some notes of vinegar and mayo, these pieces of asparagus were the best pieces of asparagus that were not served as is. I did not try the mixed salad so no comment, but the prosciutto was of a nice quality, sliced thin. Overall, raving applause for this starter. Fresh, creative, and scrumptious.
After quite a bit of waiting and talking, our main courses came. After all, relaxing and enjoying the food is the KEY at these types of restaurants! For the main course of the tasting menu, my dining companion was served the Oven Roasted Wild Northwest Halibut with Preserved Lemon and Parsley Risotto/Lobster Foam and was very happy with it. I did not even get to try this dish at all! Beautiful presentation and yet again, large serving with the tasting menu. Not much description to give, but for even my companion here to like a fish dish quite a bit is a bit unusual. Most restaurants don't meet his wants and needs of a fish dish which are quite high. (E.G. Sesame Grill is just standard in his book for fish)
(After 3 blurry photos without flash, here's the first picture I took with flash! (Photo before was second...)
Seaweed Roasted Black Cod (36 USD)
Pearl Potato, Tiny Spring Vegetable, Pomelo Segments
First on the entrees menu for the fish section, this was my other dining companion's choice. Although I did not get to try out the fish (we all kept to ourselves as everything was definitely excellent!), I tried out the potatoes which were tiny, creamy, and delicious. My dining companion seemed quite happy with her choice was well.
(In the unedited photo, the sauces would have been black and so would have the fish!)
Oven Roasted Pacific Salmon (29 USD)
Spinach Coulis, Wild Black Trumpet Mushroom
Last but not least, here was my dish. I like salmon and so I ordered yet again (CP in CA, and now CP in Las Vegas). Besides, it was cheapest on the menu- because if something cheap on a fine dining menu can be excellent, then the restaurant has fully shown itself as great! Our server, a friendly chap, even asked me how well should the salmon be cooked, which was the first time I've been asked that question in any restaurant on fish. I replied with a medium, stuttering to medium well at first as I was sick, but I turned down to medium anyway because salmon is best when not fully cooked.
The result was yet another fabulous dish executed by Aureole. Two circles of sauces, a deep and earthy brown sauce (probably made with cream, mushrooms, and beef stock?) and a larger circle of a savory, herb filled spinach coulis surrounded the center of the dish, and a tiny layer of mashed potatoes provided the base for the large piece of salmon on top. To the edges were pieces of mushrooms (that tasted like wood ear to me) and vegetable greens. The duo of sauces complimented the salmon perfectly, not that the salmon could not have been eaten by itself. That piece of salmon was fabulous! Extra crispy skin with tons of the flavorful fish oil= YUMMY. I like skin, as seen in my salmon recipe (no comparison to the skill used to make this dish). The meat was even more amazing, flaking into whole pieces as I pulled with the three-tine fork. So buttery, smooth, flavorful, melty, amazing. In my book, just as good as Sesame Grill's long time no see Arctic Salmon with Lobster sauce (ultra buttery salmon), if not even better due to the inclusion of vegetables! All the sauces and mushrooms added oomph and richness to this salmon and never took over the show.
(getting darker, and darker!)
After eating, I was not going to even ask for dessert. But for the experience, I decided to share with my dining companion who did not order the tasting menu. However, I later on decided to get my own share anyway. We're here, and we're in for all of it! After all, it is not everyday that I go visit LA or Orange County to have fine dining. These instances are extremely rare.
A bread crumb remover whisked around the table yet again, like it did during our bread and butter session, to clean up the mess. A hot water refill came yet again, and we browsed the dessert menu, which yet again I did not take a picture of. However, we really did not need to look at it, as we ordered what our waiter recommended: Megan's Dessert Sampler. According to him, it was a "small taste of the best items from the menu."
So we did. We saw our desserts come out, but the waiter turned back to the kitchen. Then he came back and served. I didn't know why at all!
And so while we were waiting for our desserts to come back, we looked around. I listened to an interesting story happening at the next table to us. There was a child who was very unhappy, and thus the server wanted to cheer him up. Now how did he do that? A free drink, "made by him", he said. And when the kid's main course of fish and chips came up, the server said yet again it was made by him! :) The kid obviously was very happy, and in the end even finished the whole entire plate of fish and chips. That's almost three large fish pieces and the signature Charlie Palmer silver tray of fries.
In the front round table, kids were tired from a day in Las Vegas and slept. Some went under the table to amuse themselves, and when the food came it was time to eat!
And while our desserts started to arrive, so did the convention folks. Almost all the tables around us now, were filled with people! Tiny dessert spoons were given to us, and the desserts were served
Megan's Dessert Sampler (12USD)
Aureole's Signature Tea Creme Brulee, Dark Chocolate Pistachio Tart, Tangerine Creamsicle Terrine, Toasted Coconut Rum Cake
So, my companion who ordered the cod and I both had our own dessert sampler. As I was served, the server told me what everything was. How sweet! After taking close up photos of each item, it was time to eat!
All quite nice, but two stood out. One was the Tangerine Creamsicle Terrine. It was a triangle of a "terrine" with layers of orange sorbet and a very creamy and even buttery vanilla ice cream, backed up with a layer of crispy puff pastry. To the side were ultra sweet tangerine segments. This was so fun to eat, and so delicious! I'll call it the ultra high end version of a orange creamsicle. The orange sorbet was a bit icy while being smooth. In addition, it was filled with a sweet tangerine flavor, and the vanilla ice cream was ultra, ultra creamy and smooth. So good! Plus, the tangerines to the side made me feel like I was eating a healthy dessert! (OK, not really, I am not You Know Who who says mint means the dessert is healthy!)
The next one that really stood out was Aureole's Signature Green Tea Creme Brulee. It was a mini cup of creme brulee, topped with a thick layer of torched sugar. That layer of sugar was ultra flavorful with the browned flavors of sugar, and it cracked with the tap of a spoon. However, probably due to the waiting of our desserts and going back to the kitchen, it was not exactly the ultra warm layer that I expected it to be!
Inside was a ultra creamy, smooth cup of green tea custard which was enhanced further with the addition of green tea. It was not a great amount, but it was a very nice accent which gave the custard a pale green (a la Yogurtland) color and a robust green tea earthiness and fragrance to the sweet, creamy, and eggy custard. So good! Very memorable dessert. I still wanted more when I finished the small cup. I guess I should have ordered the creme brulee since I loved it so much!
Anyway, putting biases aside, I had the dark chocolate pistachio tart. This was simple- a light, crumbly tart layer with chocolate ganache added in. If you plan on ordering this, eat this first or after the creamsicle terrine, as it doesn't taste as good when it gets cold as the ganache becomes cold and solid! Otherwise, it was a simple chocolate component that was just the right amount for dessert. The candied kumquat provided a interesting tang to cut off from the richness of chocolate. Nice, but it seems like now I like flavors that are just a tad less bold now! Chocolate lovers will love this though- it is chocolaty without being rich like at Flemings. On the regular menu though, a pistachio olive oil ice cream was paired with this tart, which would have been interesting if I had tried them both together.
Saved for last but not really that excellent as the others in my opinion was the coconut rum cake. Served on the side were some slices of candied kumquat which of course were fun to eat (we have a kumquat tree at home), sweet with the flavors of kumquat. On top of the cake were delightful, crispy pieces of coconut meat and a small piping of fresh whipped cream.
The cake outside was lightly crispy and inside it was moist, with some coconut cake and some orange involved as well (just a hint). Although this was good, it needed just a bit more sauce to make it better. Since I had no more hot water, I was thirsty after eating this as I already wanted water!
However, in the regular menu this is paired up with the creamsicle terrine. Thus, if I had eaten both together, they would have balanced each other quite well.
Strawberry and Mint Infused Creme Brulee Mille Feuille
Anyway, moving on, my dining companion's tasting menu ended with an interesting dessert. There were two scoops of delicious strawberry sorbet which tasted exactly like a fresh strawberry puree, and strawberry slices. But in the center was a puff pastry base with a firm vanilla ice cream base which was torched on top. This was ultra creamy yet again, but also very firm and a bit hard to scoop with the spoon. It was interesting to see that the ice cream was that firm, but it was also shaped to an unusual shape for ice cream. But still, a very nice dessert, especially with all the strawberry involved. The mint wasn't very apparent but it was there!
And now, you would probably say, that is enough for three people right? But there was an extra. Something that was "compliments of the chef." If you looked carefully at the first dessert photo, well then you have ruined my plan!
Chef's Complimentary Dessert (assumption):
Raspberry Linzer Tart (9 USD)
Key Lime Graham Cracker Ice Cream
or if you would like my earlier description before I found the menu:
Raspberry-Lime Puff Pastry Tart
Lime Pie Ice Cream, Raspberry sauce, whipped cream
It was already enough dessert for us, but the waiter came by with another dish for us as we started to enjoy dessert. I was EXCEEDINGLY surprised that we even got this dessert. Other customers definitely ordered way more in terms of $$$ than we did, like the table with the elderly folk next to us who ordered wine and big entrees like steak, but they did not get anything big for free (or at least what I saw). The kid sitting behind me got a free drink. The reason? I really do not know. And I guess I do not need to divulge into that? This was a definite added bonus in any way. Bonus points to the restaurant, although I would have given it a solid A anyway! Again, it is just another great example of how excellent the staff and the chefs are at providing great food and service!
This dessert was simple, but just as delicious as the other desserts. This base of what I assume is puff pastry appeared in all of our items tonight! Again, many different layers that were sweet and crisped with each bite, but slightly tense when together. Building up, there was a layer of sweet raspberry sauce, a layer of piped fresh and light whipped cream which was too hard to resist, and a topping of fresh raspberries and lime zest. Combined together, it was a perfect harmony of fruit, cream, and pastry that was just the right amount of sweetness for me. So many different textures, but it all went well. To the side, the key lime graham cracker ice cream tasted like a creamy key lime pie but without the ultra big tang that you get in some key lime pies, but the thin slices of key lime brought that tang back!
After we were all done with the desserts we asked for our check, which obviously would take some time due to the gift certificate stuff and the amount of customers. Unfortunately, this lead to the only mishap of the night, the fire alarm buzzing off. Crazy? No. The lights went flashing, the intercom said some words, but service went on. The employees were so calm in this situation. It seemed like nothing was in their way to serve the customers. And the customers did not care about the fire at all! The annoying light flashed, the intercom kept speaking, and my ears started to hurt for the worse. It was not Aureole's fault or anyone's fault. Thankfully, it stopped about eight minutes later. And by that time, our check was done! Perfect.
Checking out was definitely easy because with any MGMMirage property, you can bill it to your room, whether if you are not staying in the hotel you ate your meal at or not (as long as it is part of MGM Mirage). So our job was easy- a check mark next to the Bellagio and our room number. A comment form was also left aside to fill out, which I did not bother to write. But if they are vigilant, I'm sure they will see this review! And of course, I could just give them the link like I did with Palazzo last year...
Aureole- Our best meal so far ever reviewed on the blog. Sorry, Pelican Grill (ahem...300 dollars) and Charlie Palmer Bloomingdales (about the same as this place). Aureole has its achievements and awards, and it stands proudly with every plate of food served to every customer. Charlie Palmer has quite nice restaurants, but it is evident that his flagship duo, one in Las Vegas and one in New York, are the shining stars. Almost too fabulous of a deal with the 50 dollar gift certificate for such a caliber of restaurant! Now, if 100 dollars was the gift certificate amount, that would be amazing. 20 dollars per person for this outstanding meal, tax and tip included! And although there were actually two mishaps (the free petit fours were switched to the dessert, and the fire alarm), we are still coming back to have yet another great meal! First Michelin Star experience= a great one. Now, what makes a restaurant with a rating of 3 Michelin Stars even special compared to this 1 Michelin star rated restaurant? (Scales go from 1 to 3, and even a rating of 1 is hard to get!) And after this meal, I was very happy and not the sleepy, unhappy person I was when I arrived in Las Vegas.
Oh and afterwards, we drove by the I-15 to get a nice nighttime view of the strip, and it was back to the Bellagio, as it was late! A dinner that took three hours. I am totally fine with that!
Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Tel: (702) 632-7401
This trip series posts are listed in order below:
Driving Scenes: CA-Las Vegas, Spring 2010
VIP Lounge at Bellagio Las Vegas and Check In
Bellagio Review 2010: Penthouse Suite on the 35th Floor
Bellagio Review 2010: Tower Deluxe Queen Room on the 35th Floor (Room Connector)
Walkaround: Bellagio, CityCenter (Aria, Jean Philippe Patisserie)- Las Vegas
Noodles (Bellagio)- Las Vegas
Fountains of Bellagio- Las Vegas
Pho Vietnam & Capital Seafood- Las Vegas
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (Spring)/ Check In Area- Las Vegas
Aureole- Las Vegas (Mandalay Bay)
The Buffet (Bellagio)- Las Vegas
Las Vegas Spring 2010 Trip Day 3: Caesars Palace Forum Shops and Driving Scenes: Las Vegas to LA