Charlie Palmer’s Aureole is a flagship Mandalay Bay venue, have operated since the property’s 1999 opening. Late last year, the restaurant underwent some cosmetic changes—don’t worry, the grand wine tower and its iconic “wine angels” remain, though they’re more angelic now in new silver outfits—while revamping the menu under new executive chef Johnny Church. The results are nothing short of fantastic.
Church has a storied history in Vegas, having spent time in the well-regarded kitchens of Andre’s, RM Seafood, Downtown’s MTO Café and the wildly innovative, now shuttered experiment known as Artisanal Foods Café. At the helm of Aureole, he returns to a venue where he served as sous chef in the early aughts.
His menu is diverse and eclectic. The appetizer trio of dips ($18)—hummus, baba ganoush and tzatziki—are as good as any in the Valley. The black garlic Caesar ($14) is rife with funk from a steady helping of anchovies and Worcestershire sauce and adorned with a poppyseed tuille. I’ll forgive him for using house-made vegan truffle cheese on the roasted spaghetti squash ($21), because it’s such a good dish.
Raclette fondue ($18) might not be the presentation you’re expecting, because this ain’t the Melting Pot. Instead, it’s served as a topping for a plate of crudité, good but messy. Beef and octopus carpaccio ($23) is a holdover dish from Artisanal given the spotlight it deserves.
The “ranch menu” section contains a murderer’s row of memorable dishes. Fried chicken “oysters” ($19) highlight the lesser-utilized pieces of dark meat found on the back of the fowl. The meatiness of the beef cheek potato raviolo ($24) is balanced by its robust smoked tomato cream sauce. And the turkey, ham and swiss meatballs ($25) are playful, with gruyere-stuffed morsels wading in a sharp, creamy peppercorn sauce and gilded with jamón ibérico.
The best dish of all might be the 4x seared bone-in ribeye ($54)—4x representing the layers of seasoning applied to the ribeye cap: sea salt, soy sauce, mirin rice wine and uni. The result is one of the Strip’s best—and most complex—steaks.
Lest you think Church doesn’t wander off the land, the Veta la Palma sea bass ($110) is extraordinary, the fish’s smokiness offset by chimichurri. Don’t let the price scare you—the dish is more than ample for two. And the lionfish ceviche ($25) is another steal from the Artisanal menu, with the invasive species of fish—famous for destroying ecosystems—dressed with the heat of aji amarillo.
With its recent changes, the stalwart Aureole has been elevated to a must-visit destination once again. Charlie Palmer’s name might be on the marquee, but this is Johnny Church’s restaurant now, and we’re all the better for it.
Aureole Mandalay Bay, 702-632-7401. Monday-Saturday, 5:30-10:30 p.m.