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Aureole Wine Lounge: A Secret In Plain Sight

Some things in Las Vegas have a way of hiding in plain sight. Aureole Wine Lounge is a fine example of this. Late last year, the Charlie Palmer restaurant in Mandalay Bay decided to update it’s rather austere entrance, opening up a huge window to their famous wine tower and dining room; it was a great idea, and arguably overdue, the first real change to the restaurant since it opened in the late ‘90s. At the same time, they also thought to gather some energy from the casino floor by creating a small “wine lounge” in front of the window, with a few select wines by the glass, and some small bites to accompany them.

It was just a modest idea. The only thing is, the team at Aureole (including Exec Chef Vincent Pouessel, Wine Director William Sherer and Pastry Chef Megan Romano) don’t do anything modestly. They do it as well as it can be done, or they don’t do it–and they let the results speak for themselves. Which is perhaps why so few local media have talked about Aureole Wine Lounge.

The lack of attention is perhaps understandable: If you don’t jump up and down and scream your lungs out on the Vegas Strip, you’ll get drowned out by every business that does. Aureole’s style has always been much more low key, quietly maintaining one of the best dining rooms and wine programs in the city without over-promoting it (take a look at their wall of awards, positioned inside the restaurant). Such exceeding expectations matched with quiet humility is the exact opposite of how things are usually done here. And while I myself have always had Aureole on a short list of reliable top recommendations, I too neglected to sit down and experience the wine lounge.

Once I did, I realized it was my loss. Because Aureole’s own standards are so high, doing an “impromptu” lounge for tourists and conventioneers means creating a place that far exceeds other much more “serious” stops at the same price point. And surprisingly, it’s not only better quality, but even better value, no matter what your budget.

In addition to a broad selection of almost 20 wines by the glass and several fine cheeses (all competitively priced–with the wines half off during happy hour), AWL also offers a menu of “small bites” in the $10 range that are easily some of your best food values on the Strip. Check out what I got to sample, all of which were great, and some out of this world:

Four Miyago Oysters for $10? You might find them a tiny bit cheaper elsewhere (most places they're $3 each). You surely won't find them better.

Four Miyago Oysters for $10? You might find them a tiny bit cheaper elsewhere (most places they're $3 each). You surely won't find them better.

Spicy tomatillo gaspacho with watercress sandwiches. This really is almost a meal.

Spicy tomatillo gaspacho with watercress sandwiches. This really is almost a meal.

Ahi tuna rolls with edible flowers: pretty. yummy.

Ahi tuna rolls with edible flowers: pretty. yummy.

Wagyu sliders with bacon: It was a tragedy we couldn't finish these.

Wagyu sliders with bacon: It was a tragedy we couldn't finish these.

Mushroom egg rolls, for you vegetarians in the house (and those of us who love you).

Mushroom egg rolls, for you vegetarians in the house (and those of us who love you).

Piece de resistance: St. Louis Ribs–meaty, tender, sweet and savory, incredibly, the BEST ribs I've had in Vegas. 3 for $10 might seem pricey but THESE ARE WORTH IT!

Piece de resistance: St. Louis Ribs–meaty, tender, sweet and savory, incredibly, the BEST ribs I've had in Vegas. 3 for $10 might seem pricey but THESE ARE WORTH IT!