AUREOLE – Still Crazy Good After All These Years
One of the reasons ELV hasn’t been posting the volume of sardonic, sagacious, salutory, saline, salivating, sanatory, salubrious and sacrilegious reviews (and articles) for which he is known, is because he (along with Slapsie Maxie Jacobson and Al “Mad Man” Mancini) is spending most of his spare time researching, writing and re-writing the first draft of our book: Eating Las Vegas – The 50 Essential Restaurants of Las Vegas – to be published this fall.
The “research” part, ELV did years ago. Meaning: if we wanted to cull through old reviews for all 50 top joints (plus the twenty or so other places that will be featured), we could phone it in. But journalistic responsibility mandates that we return to see how a place is doing if we haven’t been by in over a year.
So that’s what we did last week at Aureole with our staff: grab a nibble, see what uber-chef Vincent Pouessel (and Stefan Peroutka, his executive sous) are whipping up, and assess how this impeccably-dressed grand dame is getting on after eleven years.
Very well it seems. The Adam Tihany-designed room (his first in Vegas) is as striking as ever, nothing about the place seems tired or shopworn, and the food is just about as good as finely-tuned French food can be in a restaurant that seats over 300 hungry souls. Truth be told, that’s always been the most remarkable thing about Aureole. Everyone talks about the 40′ wine tower and the computerized (and expensive) wine list, but what has always distinguished Charlie Palmer‘s palace (in our perceptive opinion) is how inventive, sophisticated and consistent the food is in a place the size of an Army mess hall.
All three chefs who’ve helmed this operation – Joe Romano, Philippe Rispoli and now Pouessel — are true professionals who not only have great kitchen skills and taste, but also (apparently) the leadership to command (and inspire) a large kitchen brigade like a no-nonsense general. (That being said, we know and love Philippe Rispoli, and consider him one of the most talented chefs in America, but semper fi and spit and polish aren’t words that come leaping into your mind when you meet the guy. Then again, a lot of great chefs can be charming, laid back and ingratiating in public, and real tyrants behind the swinging doors.)
No matter how they get it done, the kitchen at Aureole gets it done, so well in fact, they even had us swooning over the Ahi tuna and crab starter — when we’ve been threatening to stick a fork in our eye if one more chef parades raw tuna before us. Of course, the coconut Kaffir lime froth didn’t hurt a bit. We could’ve eaten a bucket of the stuff. And yes, those are real silver shavings dotting the top of the dish. In case you need more minerals in your diet.
If you need more great cheese, remember Aureole was the first Strip restaurant to feature a quality cheese cart — no one but CP and his crew (around here) were thinking about such things in the early aughts. And if great chocolates and desserts are your thing, Megan Romano still dazzles with superior sweets. Hubby Joe jumped ship years ago for the higher volume and less stressful demands of feeding PT’s customers — which is sort of like hiring Placido Domingo to sing in a barbershop quartet. But we’re happy he’s off the premises, because we’re secretly in love with Megan, and husbands (especially husbands whose last names end in a vowel), for some reason get incredibly rude when sybaritic food critics won’t stop pawing their wives. Whassup with that?
Speaking of romance — at least the sort of Greek god with Roman hands and Russian fingers courtship with which ELV is most acquainted — if you’re looking to close the deal, the entire restaurant (whether in the main room or the Swan Court), despite its size, is still one of the most seductive spaces in town.
And if you grab a seat at the corner of the bar, directly under the stairwell beside the wine tower, you can drink fabulous wine and look up women’s skirts all night long.
Is this a great town or what?*
In the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino
3590 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89119
*ELV…ever the quixotic, amatory sentimentalist.