Although it is hidden in the nongaming Royal Resort between two of Las Vegas’ primary tourism centers, The Barrymore has some things going for it.
For one, it’s operated by Block 16 Hospitality, the parent company of such higher-profile restaurants as Holsteins Shakes and Buns at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Public House at the Grand Canal Shoppes. For another, social media, because good news travels fast and there’s a lot about The Barrymore that’s good.
The restaurant is old-Vegas elegant, with circular booths interspersed with table lamps throwing a soft glow. The ceiling is covered with large golden empty film reels, and the room is further accented by a wall covered with hexagonal mirrors on a gilt background and ornate wallpaper.
The menu is mostly old Vegas, too, with a big selection of steaks with topping and sauce options and two sizes of chilled shellfish platters, but there’s some more creative stuff as well. We went both ways with our appetizers, a crabcake ($18) and the smoked bacon ($14).
The crabcake wasn’t so much a cake as a flattened mound of crabmeat with no discernible binder, not that we’re complaining. It had been liberally seasoned with Old Bay for a traditional touch. Less traditional was the accompaniment of a sort of creamy cucumber coulis, an innovative take on the cucumbers-in-sour-cream dish beloved of Midwestern grandmothers.
The smoked bacon used the term in the literal sense instead of the more familiar, consisting of thick strips of pork belly with the house steak sauce, which had just a bit of a kick.
For entrees, we went beyond the steak. A thick pork chop ($32) had been brined to keep it moist, and it was served with something so complementary I can’t believe it’s not commonplace — a blue-cheese “fondue,” which was more of a sauce. On the side was an unlikely but quite satisfactory melange of Brussels sprouts and grapes.
My first forkful of Chilean sea bass ($37) set off the warning bells, because it seemed offensively strong, but that impression disappeared quickly. The use of an exceptionally creamy butternut squash risotto as a base for the fish was offbeat but effective, as were the fried pieces of root vegetables served with it.
I sort of wished we’d quit there, because the pistachios in the pistachio-vanilla bean swirl creme brulee ($8.50) were overpowering and lent an odd floral note to the dish, although we did like the fresh raspberries served with it.
Service throughout was prompt, the courses well-timed, but our waiter seemed a little impatient occasionally, preemptively removing the wine list, for example. He later asked if he could call a cab for us; we guess they don’t get a lot of locals.
Which is understandable, considering how moribund the surrounding area is. One thing’s for sure: The Barrymore deserves a much brighter spotlight.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.