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Aureole's wine tower

Maybe Charlie Palmer gets tired of the jokes about "Charlie's angels."  But probably not. Especially since one of the draws at Palmer's Aureole restaurant in Las Vegas—which posted 2004 sales of around $11.5 million—are the toned, black-clad "wine angels" who rappel up and down a 42-ft., glass-enclosed wine tower to retrieve customers' selections.

"It's been an unbelievable PR tool," says Femenella, the CFO. "The whole idea was to bring down the snobbery and pretentiousness associated with wine lists, and make wine more accessible and fun."

The tower, touted as a working wine rack that holds 10,000 bottles, is stocked with Aureole's fastest-moving labels, "which keeps the girls flying all night," Femenella says. (Wine revenue is heavenly as well, comprising up to 39% of the restaurant's $112 average dinner check.)

But cuisine at the 350-seat restaurant remains top of mind. The $69 prix fixe features entrees such as Caramelized Monkfish with Aromatics and Roast Spring Rack of Lamb with Sweet Garlic. There's also a $95 tasting menu that boasts choices like Honey Spiced Marinated Duck, Brie and Truffle Wonton, and Warm Pistachio Concord Grape Financier.

Aureole, the namesake of the renowned concept in Manhattan, has been a Vegas headliner since 1999. But initial reaction to the plan to head west was less than enthusiastic. "Aureole in New York has a very loyal following, and when we announced we were going to Las Vegas, a lot of noses went in the air," Femenella says. "Today some of those same people have been to Aureole here many times."

Femenella, in fact, now ranks Las Vegas as the best dining city in the U.S. "I'm not knocking other places," he says. "It's just that Las Vegas has the money and the space to do things you don't find anywhere else."

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