Friday, March 1, 2013

This Post Took Weeks to Write, So I'm Not Going to Sweat for a Witty Title and Just Hit "Publish"

If you name your establishment The Barrymore, you're nodding to Hollywood Art Deco chic, an era before even what passed for swank in Las Vegas existed. You have to be talking about John; sorry Lionel, Ethel, and of course Drew, who might fit in again in that everything that goes around is hip once around again way. That's John romancing Lombard On the Twentieth Century, oddly avuncular to Claudette Colbert in Midnight, but an ever-elegant, witty, well-cleaned-up lush. As something to aspire to in Vegas, you could do much worse--if Barrymore sang (even a bit--right Deano?), and lived past 1942--he'd have made for an apt Rat Pack granddad, teaching Sinatra et al. some class.

This kind of "just being a little bit off it's on" is at the heart of The Barrymore, which isn't even Downtown, let alone on The Strip. If you walk there from what seems like civilization (down Caesar's way) you get into that creepy convenience store no man's land of Las Vegas Blvd. and Convention Center Drive where you half expect some meth heads to burst out a store's doors, trailing bills they've pilfered and peeling out in some ill-kept hot-rod. And The Royal Resort, the hotel that houses The Barrymore, is one of those motor lodge fixer-uppers that from the outside appears only to be a Days Inn with hipper lighting on its balconies.

Luckily, the Barrymore's got better things in store for you to the left off the hotel's lobby. You walk into the bar that's somehow both dim and glittery (they've got their lighting down). It's marble-topped, backed by a mirror (and booze of course), and the stools are leather and plush and you might even consider just stopping there. Particularly in December (sorry, I'm way behind in writing this entry), as there's an aluminum Xmas tree in one corner, ablaze in a rainbow thanks to that essential spotlight with its rotating color gels of magenta and carrot and lime and blue Yule cheer. It's worth heading into the dining room, though, with more mirrors with lamps bursting through to provide the perfect reflected light for you and your equally glammed out date. And the ceiling, best of all, is covered with 35mm film take up reels, just enough odd and even more so Hollywood.

That bar, by the way, isn't just for show--they've got an incredible cocktail program, one with respect for the classics and a yen for innovation (you can get a Bloody Mary with beef brisket infused vodka, a Margarita with St. Germain). I had a Barrymore--Gentleman Jack, Solerno Blood Orange liqueur, orange marmalade, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, orange bitters, orange zest--which sounds like too much but melded wonderfully (especially on a chill desert eve) and Chryss enjoyed the cleverly billed Basil 2--Basil Hayden, Dolin Dry vermouth, fresh sour, basil, and lemon syrup. 

Your server--perhaps you'll be lucky enough to get someone like Kendra, who waited on us--will be quick to figure out what you want and how that matches with what they have. That menu, if you look at the website, is relatively focused, but based on our admittedly just one visit, they like to augment that with specials perfect for the season.

And then we ate a ton. This is now a meal over 2 months ago, and while it was memorable, aren't even good meals more about moments than precise recall? And, of course, I remember my food more than my wife's, even getting a taste of everything she ordered. For instance, freed from California's stupidity about outlawing a food, I started with foie gras. A lovely lobe, pan seared,  atop some sweet potato pudding, and drizzled with maple glazed pecans and whiskey gastrique. Think of it as liver perched between dessert and Thanksgiving and enjoy it with a Sauterne by the glass. Chryss had a salad with a twist, featuring puntarella, which reads more suggestively than it tastes. She followed that with Mediterranean Sea Bass all done up for fall/winter, with crushed potato, roasted brussel sprouts, leeks, and a horseradish vichyssoise that was less soup than a fancy saucing. I ordered off menu, enjoying a homemade pasta with oxtail ragu and truffle, a dish so deep Carlos Castaneda might have been buried in there, tripping. It could have heavied-out, if you know what I mean--carbs with so much richness--but managed to hold the line at full of flavor without making me just full. The Altos Malbec might have helped--consider it, in this case, and as a compliment, Cab-light traipsing in with its Argentinian dust. We ended with a creme brulee for free as it was my lovely wife's birthday. So thanks, Barrymore, a class act that manages to ape an era without any irony.

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