THE BARRYMORE – Dinner
There’s no doubt The Barrymore has got it goin’ on when it comes to its polished, post-modern decor. It’s the right size (the main room seats maybe 50), and the right feel (casual service, moderate prices) for our depression-sunk city. They’ve spent real money on the joint and go out of their way to make customers feel appreciated. Even the lighting in inviting.
Unfortunately, some of the starters need work. (Of our three main courses, none did.) For oysters Rockefeller, the kitchen substitutes a toasted cheese sauce over spinach rather the butter and bread crumbs in a more classic presentation — a venial rather than cardinal sin. Regardless of its purity, the richness was there, even if a dash of Pernod wasn’t. If we were grading such things, a “B” or a “B+” would be about right. Less successful is the pedestrian octopus — lacking in both seasoning and snap. Mussels were also standard issue, and suffered from not enough dipping broth and, again, no forward accents to the shellfish.
In something of a change of pace for most restaurants, more love (not to mention herbs and spices) seems to be lavished on the entrees. (It’s remarkable how often the first, smaller courses seem outshine the larger portioned items at most meals.) The $18 Vadouvan squash curry with cous cous is well-conceived, and deeply flavored — a vegetarian dish even a carnivore can love. It’s also hard not to be smitten by the simple, easy to read menu, and things like a $20 Jidori pan-roasted chicken, or a $21 hunks of well-cooked sea bass over a winning bean ragout with caramelized Brussels sprouts.
Desserts, by Top Chef Just Desserts contestant Carlos Enriquez, were hits with one big miss. His de-constructed take on s’mores was tainted by charred marshmallows emitting whiffs of too much chemical-laden smoke (they smelled of kerosene, not wood or charcoal), but the chocolate semifreddo and apple crumble the type of simple and satisfying desserts these surroundings call for. ELV thinks sometimes chefs try too hard to “create” when their strengths lie with their command of basic flavors and techniques.
To summarize: the main courses outshone the apps (all of which were woefully under-seasoned), but on the whole, the presentation and careful cooking (along with that sparkling decor and modest prices) make this restaurant a little slice of heaven — a tiny gem if you will, among many an oversized zircon — in a town looking for an antidote to the cavernous conventioneer canteens that control and consume our restaurant culture.
Our dinner for three with three glasses of wine came to $120 + $25 tip.
In the Royal Resort Hotel
99 Convention Center Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89109