Sunday, February 16, 2014
Dining Review: Aureole - Mandalay Bay - Las Vegas
I've been to quite a few restaurants but Aureole, located at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, stands out. Does it stand out because it's the best restaurant I've been to? No. The only claim to fame it has is that it's the most expensive restaurant I've been to.
For this review I'm going to do a double comparison. I'm going to compare it to a restaurant that serves a similar cuisine in Disney World and one of Aureole's Las Vegas rivals.
The tables and decor beyond the tower are forgettable. They are modern and overshadowed by the dim light and high ceiling.
The only other part of the atmosphere that's worth talking about is a fountain at the back of the dining room. At night they light it up. It's a nice feature but nothing that it's done much better in Disney World.
Now Disney World has a restaurant called Narcoossee's. Narcoossee's dining options are very similar to Aureole's. However, I'd take the atmosphere at Narcoossee's any day of the week.
A few miles down the strip from Aureole is a restaurant called Hugo's Cellar. The quality is on par with Aureole but the atmosphere is much better.
If you compare the three restaurants, Aureole comes in dead last.
The food at Aureole is mainly seafood and steak. We tried a couple of appetizers, main courses, and some small deserts.
The appetizers were okay. Yes I said okay. You might be able to tell I was underwhelmed. I got the onion soup. It was good but that was the problem. For the price of an entree in Disney World I got good onion soup. In other words it was was grossly over priced and nothing special.
Another member of the party got one of the salads. He enjoyed it, but it was nothing that blew him away. When you are paying top dollar, you expect to be blown away.
I should also explain that the individual who ordered the salad has been to Aureole before. He's also been to the original Aureole in New York. He went in with high expectations which were based on experience.
The main courses were a mixed bag. One person ordered the octopus and scallops. One person ordered the blue cheese encrusted filet. Myself and one other ordered the New York strip.
So what were the results? The Octopus was amazing. The filet was decent. The strip steaks were a huge disappointment.
You might wonder why I ordered a strip steak. After all what restaurant doesn't offer a strip steak? That's the very point. A strip steak is a huge test. Can you make it something amazing or are you going to present a generic dish? It takes true creativity and talent to turn a basic offering into something special.
The steaks were mostly bland and not cooked correctly. One was ordered med-rare and came out almost med-well. The other was ordered med and came out borderline med-well. Both were fairly ugly. They actually put a brown steak on top of brown mashed potatoes, with only a tiny bit of sauce to add color. Oh, and they charged about 40 a pop for that.
The portion size is small. If you want to add something to make it a normal meal you'll need to cough up an extra 9+ for a side. $9 will get you some generic, roasted vegetables. They were so generic we didn't even finish them.
The other guy who ordered the strip steak didn't want the mashed potatoes so we asked if he could swap them out. It was like pulling teeth but they offered to replace them with french fries. The french fries were nothing to brag about. You'll get better french fries at Five Guys Burgers.
The deserts were tiny and unimpressive. One was a lemon tart. It had nice flavor but really needed a nice sauce to go with it. The other was a chocolate lava cake thing. It had great flavor but was gone after about four bites.
Overall the food was a let down. Narcoossee's is slightly better at a cost of about half, while Hugo's, is at least a third less and is ten times better than anything you'll get at Aureole's.
Now for the bad. A few years back my wife and I went to Citrico's. Search the blog and you can read about what happened there. I thought I'd never run into an experience like that at a high end dining location again. I was wrong. Our waiter at Citrico's was non-existent, while the friendly assistant had to do all the work. At Aureole's we had a very nice assistant waiter and a waiter we wished would go away.
How can I explain our waiter? Simple, go watch the movie Dumb and Dumber and then start reading this again.
Our waiter was a virtual clone of "Nicholas Andre" from Dumb and Dumber. A douche bag that you want to avoid. Now, that is a little harsh but this guy earned it. From the start he was pushy. He hit us with a hard sell on the expensive specials. Time and again he tried to sell. It's one thing to explain the specials and do so with passion. It's another thing to give you the feeling that you are a fool if you do not order the special.
Our waiter also had the bad habit of hovering. Maybe he thought we'd change our minds and order more if he hung around. If he did anything it wouldn't have been so bad, but his assistant did all the work. His assistant also earned the tip. He was cordial, friendly, and even shared a funny story. One member of our party made the comment that he wished he could swap the two. In all honesty we would have asked if we didn't think the douche bag would have spit in our food.
So the waiter wasn't great but did he at least take care of us? No. The member of the party with the overcooked steak brought it to his attention. In case like this, in a place of this caliber, the first words out of his mouth should have been, "I'm so sorry. How can I fix it?" Instead, all he did was offer to recook the steak. That's not a great option. Everyone else has the food. Unless the meal is inedible, you don't want to return it. You'd end up taking it home because everyone else would be done by the time your food arrived.
How does the service compare? Hugo's beat's Aureole more than the Bruins facing a peewee hockey team. You just can't compare them. Narcoossee's, with it's standard Disney service, also blows Aureole out of the water.
Okay I did a little bit of research for this one. Take what you read above and apply it to the estimated figures below. These figures do not include a tip. They are comparing similar dishes across a party of four and include two bottles of wine. I also have to estimate the bill at Aureole since I did not see the bill.
Narcoossee's - $315
Hugo's - $375
Aureole - $475
Now this is not a true comparison. Why? Because both Hugo's and Narcoossee's include things that Aureole charges for. So in other words, you get a lot more for you money at both Narcoossee's and Hugo's than you do at Aureole.
Bottom line is this, if you want to see the wine tower, take a picture of it from the outside. If you do that you will experience the best part of Aureole without having to sell your firstborn to afford it.