Dine with the angels in Las Vegas, Nevada
By Julia Bayly
Eboni Lomax is an angel. More to the point, Lomax is a “wine angel” at the famed Aureole Restaurant where Cirque du Soleil-style theatrics meet fine dining at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
And really, if you are going to be an angel, what better kind to be than a wine angel?
In addition to a menu described as “progressive American” by Brittany-born Executive Chef Vincent Pouessel, Aureole boasts one of the grandest selections of wines in Las Vegas with more than 50,000 bottles housed in a four-story glass and stainless steel wine tower.
As guests dine on dishes ranging from wild caught salmon to Waygu beef, Lomax and the other wine angels are in constant motion “flying” up and down the tower on a series of specially designed cables retrieving bottles of top vintages from around the world.
“I knew about the wine angels for years,” Las Vegas-born Lomax said. “I knew this is what I wanted to do. I made it my goal to become one.”
Lomax became a wine angel nine years ago and works her shifts in tandem with a fellow angel in the tower where the temperature is a constant 55-degrees at 70 percent humidity.
“It can get pretty busy in here,” she said, adjusting her harness and preparing to take flight in pursuit of a bottle of red wine somewhere overhead.
The bottles are mapped out down below, so the angels are not left to hunt for Bordeaux and Malbecs in a haystack.
“You have to be part gymnast and part flyer,” Lomax said. “Of course I was trained and on my first day on the job they told me just to go as high as you feel comfortable. It took me a couple of days to get really comfortable.”
Watching Lomax now, it’s easy to see she is completely at ease soaring up and down the tower—to a point.
“The hardest for me are the bottles in the top corners,” she said. “You have to really work to get them [because] the higher you go, the less give the cables have.”
Back down on earth, Aureole contains five distinct dining rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking an indoor pond with resident swans gliding back and forth.
I’ll confess, I’d always heard what a big deal truffles are, but beyond some dishes prepared with truffle oil, I had never had the chance to sample that delicacy.
Now I get the big deal.
Chef Pouessel appeared at our table with his Captain Jacinto Zhagui who was carrying a small wooden box.
“He’s my bodyguard,” Pouessel joked, as Zhagui carefully opened the box to reveal four white truffles tucked neatly inside and worth a combined $1,000.
Selecting one, Pouessel bent over the risotto and began to gently shave paper thin slices over it, accompanied by a soft rasping sound as the blade passed over the fungus.
“You hear that?” Chef Pouessel said. “That’s the sound you want to hear. It means you have a fresh truffle and sharp truffle shaver.”
The risotto was a perfect creamy texture with flavors that seemed to explode on our pallets. Those shaved truffles added a sublime earthiness to the entire dish.
After Chef Pouessel walked us through the menu, he returned to his kitchen, leaving us in the very capable hands of Zhagui who—after I ordered my entrée—helped me select the perfect wine to accompany it.
After the risotto, we enjoyed an amuse bouche of crab cakes, rice balls, raw oysters and spring rolls.
This was followed by a first course of pumpkin soup with chestnut and scallop profiterole and roasted butternut squash raviolis with wilted bitter greens, roasted pine nuts and amaretto cookie crumble.
The main course was a rib eye steak cooked—or, in my case, not cooked—to blue-rare perfection and served with a classic Béarnaise sauce and accompanied by roasted red potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and spinach au gratin.
Somehow, after all that, we found room for dessert: a sampling of house-made ice cream and sorbet.
Aureole is undeniably upscale—one of the dining rooms was host to the Latin Grammys the night we were there—but it’s upscale in a very casual and low key manner.
From start to finish we felt attended to, but not pressured and able to enjoy our amazing meal in a completely relaxed manner from the shaved truffles down to the last sip of fresh, black coffee.
Most definitely heaven on earth. Complete with wine-bearing angels.
Aureole Las Vegas
Mandalay Bay Resort
3950 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas, NV 89119
Private Events: 702.767.0357
Dinner: Monday-Saturday 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Lounge: Monday-Saturday 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Happy Hour: Monday-Saturday 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
2nd Happy Hour: Monday-Saturday 9:30 to 11:00 p.m.
-Photos courtesy Julia M. Bayly