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When chef Barry Dakake was brought in to open his own restaurant at the new Circa Resort & Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, he knew what he wanted.

Barry’s Downtown Prime, which opens Wednesday and is the centerpiece dining experience at Circa, blends the classic cool of the old Vegas steakhouses of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s with a modern hipster vibe that the hotel-casino is aiming for. Las Vegas firm PUNCH Architecture was brought in to lead the interior design.

“We wanted that old Vegas feeling, and we wanted to have a modern twist on it,” Dakake said. “With the collaboration of what we thought would look good with pictures and design, working with PUNCH Design — they made it happen. It’s really, really pretty. They nailed it.”

Dakake, who arrived in Las Vegas from New York in 1999, previously opened Aureole at Mandalay Bay and N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms Casino Resort and later was executive chef at Scotch 80 Prime, which replaced N9NE.

The menus and service at Barry’s reflect Dakake’s experiences at those modern steakhouses while mixing in that old Vegas feeling. One of the touches Dakake is most excited about is tableside service.

“I wanted to bring back what I did well in the old days at N9NE Steakhouse and Scotch 80,” he said, “and I brought some tableside cooking back to the restaurant. I don’t think you see much of that anymore.

“I’m doing a little spin — my own version — on Steak Diane, bananas-strawberry Foster, and a lobster-flambe with a pink vodka sauce over rigatoni, tableside.”

Dakake said he’s constantly practicing — thinking of new ways to prepare and plate dishes.

“You make it, you taste it, and if you make a mistake, you go back and do it again until you get it down,” he said. “When you’re a chef — or even an artist or a musician — you know when you do something right, and you know when you do something wrong. You practice to get better. It’s like staying in shape: Your mind is staying in shape.”

In creating Barry’s, Dakake is working with some familiar faces, including his three co-owners, investor Donnie Rihn, director of operations Yassine Lyoubi and wine director Marco Cicione.

Lyoubi, who grew up in the restaurant business in his native Morocco, was a general manager at N9NE, where Cicione also worked, as sommelier, among other duties. Both Lyoubi and Cicione later opened Scotch 80 with Dakake.

Rihn was a customer at one of Dakake’s former restaurants and a friend of Circa owner Derek Stevens. Rihn and Stevens reached out to Dakake and Luyoubi, who were partners, with the proposal to open a high-end restaurant at Circa.

Dakake also brought in Patrick Hodge III, with whom he had worked for almost two decades, as chef de cuisine.

Speaking of cuisine, on one of Dakake’s favorite parts of the menu — the steaks — each cut is listed with the source of the meat, including specialty beef farms in Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado and Japan.

The bar will cater to cocktail culture, the restaurant to a new steak culture.

“I think the customer has evolved over the years. I think they want to be involved,” Dakake said. “Instead of just saying, ‘It’s a filet mignon,’ as restaurateurs, (we) want to educate them and let them know where things come from. I think people are becoming more food savvy and cocktail savvy.

“I think that’s cool. It shows that they’re thinking about what they’re eating. They’re interested.”

So, if Dakake was visiting Barry’s Downtown Prime as a guest, what would he order?

“If I go into a restaurant, I like to order a little bit of everything,” he said. “But you’ve got to try the bone marrow luge. You’ve got to try the shellfish platter. And you must try the lobster macaroni and cheese. I’m filling a whole pound-and-a-quarter lobster shell with macaroni and cheese and lobster. It’s going to be unbelievable.”

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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