By George Capsis
Few phone calls offer the instant euphoria of: “We would like to advertise,” coupled with (like a drop of olive oil) a Greek accent. Ahh this was going to be easy.
Nikolaos (Nick) Biziouras, the co-owner, with Seth Leffer, of a new restaurant called The Black Derby at 310 West 4th Street, was ready to receive his very first customers after redoing The Place, which had closed at that same location.
Our regular reviewer, David Porat, owner of Chelsea Market Baskets, was in his New Jersey warehouse getting ready for Christmas so the job was up to me. I took circus executive Ron Morris and Dusty Berke from the 9/11 Tiles for America Memorial.
The restaurant is down a few stairs through the bar area. And, wow, a glittering new 40-foot-long room unfolds, lined with rustic wooden beams and walls of exposed white-painted brick, and polished brass frames. It was elegant but oh so comfortable, with plump Greek Blue cushions running all the way down the room (so inviting).
I sit with David when he does these reviews: He takes a photo of the dish first, has a taste, and then orders “everything”. So I nervously started with the appetizers first: Double Cut Bacon with Bourbon Glaze and, yes, the glaze made it. It had a sweet apple taste, which contrasted with the smoky pork flavor, making you wish for one more bite. Oh, I ate it all up before we took the photo.
Ron, who is from the East End of London, elected for Icelandic Cod, which is the fish of Fish and Chips. So, we waited for his verdict—a smile and then a “good”. The cod also had a unique sweet sauce and I thought: How nice! This is the way to eat crispy yet moist fish.
The absolute best, and this was another choice of beef-eating Ron, was the Hanger Steak—a large, thin steak with a deep rich herbal flavored sauce that could make a vegan fall off the wagon. It was the best and easiest to eat steak I can ever remember.
Dusty, who is at home at everybody’s table, turned to take a picture of the largest, fattest, and most succulent burger I have ever seen. It was draped in three kinds of melted cheese and, of course, thinly-cut pomme frites. I was sorry we did not try it, if only for the price! It was just $12 and it was a MEAL. So, if you are broke, go to The Black Derby for the $12 burger and you can take what you can’t eat for lunch the next day (the owners have made a conscious effort to keep prices low and they do).
But, again, how nice the place looks! Dusty even found the designer Maria Zoe Vassiliou in the front room entertaining a long table of her beautiful, happily-animated girlfriends—what a delightful sight.
Nick won my heart by knowing the Capsis family in Greece—three generations of journalists and one cousin (John), the Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece who negotiated the American bases.
I know I will be going back to The Black Derby to try that burger but also because I know Nick and Seth and it will be like eating at home. But the food is much better than my cooking.