A different red, white and blue flag is set to fly on Main Street Smithtown, as a new English pub, Cyrus Place, is set to open in the coming weeks.
The small restaurant, already donning signs that evoke modern England with their London Underground-like scheme, is the creation of owner Cyrus Kabir. The restaurateur was born in Zimbabwe to parents from Bangladesh, though he lived in England for many years before coming to the U.S. to study computer science in college.
After school, Kabir spent a few years working for a company that helped small businesses that had grown into corporate entities adjust to their new size. Sometimes that meant downsizing – and layoffs.
“That was my greatest tragedy, that you can’t get ahead without hunting and destroying something else,” he said. “As a spiritual person, I had a real dilemma there.”
Kabir set out to find a more rewarding line of work. He was involved with Taj Tandoor in Deer Park until about nine months ago. He said he had eyed the empty space near the corner of East Main Street and Lawrence Avenue for several years as he drove by before he checked out the inside and fell in love.
With the help of a few friends he redid the interior of the former Italian eatery, down to the dark wooden tables he crafted from scrap wood. His concept for Cyrus Place is simple: a homey place where you can get English pub food done well.
“I’ve never gotten a good plate of fish and chips in America,” said Kabir. Usually in the case of an establishment like his, drinking comes first and the food is secondary – and not very good.
“I wanted to turn the tables and put the time and effort into the food,” he said, although he will offer a selection of craft beers and boutique wines that pair well with his menu items.
Kabir’s science background makes him curious about the science of the cooking process, he said. Instead of putting cheese on his burger patties, he will put it inside to prevent too much breakdown from the heat and retain more flavor. This allows for less cheese, meaning less fat. He will charbroil his wings – nothing will be deep-fried but the fish and chips. Frying in the pan leaves less oil on the food, he said. Chickpea flour absorbs less oil and adds more flavor.
He has a menu balanced with vegetarian and gluten-free items, like the homemade hummus, and he said he won’t use anything frozen or non-organic. He wants to stay away from what he has seen American cuisine become: oversized portions of mediocre ingredients disguised by sauces and other distractions.
“I want to allow people to finally taste what they’re eating,” Kabir said, noting that his time in Africa allowed him to know what beef “really” tastes like.
“People don’t realize if you’ve got a balanced plate, you don’t need to pile it with meat or anything else,” said Kabir, whose mother was a doctor and imparted her knowledge of nutrition on him. “You’re body realizes when it’s had enough nutrition.”
He said he doesn’t consider his establishment’s style part of any “wave of the future,” but an attempt at bringing food service back to basics – a place where you can get good food that is good for you at a reasonable price. Entrees will be in the $9 to $12 range, said Kabir. He said he wants it to be a place in the tradition of English “locals,” where people go with a sense of trust in the food and drink and familiarity with the people there.
“I think that’s what a lot of people in the restaurant business forgot. You’ve got Chilean Sea Bass on a bed of fennel and whatever – that’s all bullocks, man. I think too many nice restaurants try to be an experience. Do you remember the food?” Kabir said. “You paid $22 for a steak. Did you taste it? Did you savor it?”
Kabir said he’s happy to be joining the Smithtown dining community, and said, in principle, that Cyrus Place could be good for the area.
“It’s encouraging people to add another place to their rotation, because they’ve seen other types of places."