Over the last several years, the restaurant was known as Danny’s Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, but owner Danny Lye was keen on changing the menu to classic French cuisine. The transition to French cuisine seemed right when his chef retired at the same time that the new restaurant’s new head chef, Segundo Guaman, was available.
Guaman was executive chef at eateries such as Le Gamin and has worked with many renowned French chefs, including Chef Jean Michel Diot at the three-star Michelin-rated Park Bistro, Chef Daniel Boulud of Café Boulud, Chef Philippe Bertineau at Payard Bistro and Chef Philippe Schmit at La Goulue Bistro.
The 40-year-old chef, a native of Ecuador, met Lye through Lye’s longtime manager, Karim Aallali.
“I don’t like too much sugar or too much salt, and this chef has a similar thought to mine,” Lye said. “Our chicken is organic, our beef is all prime beef, the sea scallops are from the sea, not farm-raised.”
“French cuisine, for us, is number one in the world,” he added. “The food is more complicated, more detailed and has more variety.”
With respect to the chef, Lye allowed Guaman to have free rein over the menu. Guaman, along with two others, crafts each meal for the restaurant.
Danny’s French Cuisine offers exquisite dishes such as comforting french onion soup, rich escargot, tender steak au poivre, creamy pan seared foie gras and a succulent roasted duck breast with a butternut squash puree in addition to spinach and an orange glaze.
Guaman also creates the fresh desserts, which includes everything from a decadent chocolate lava cake to a smooth creme brulee.
“The experience of the customer is what’s most important to me,” Guaman said. “If the customer is happy, then I feel like I’ve done a good job.”
Although Lye owns several restaurants, including the luxurious Japanese omakase restaurant Kakurega Sushi in Flushing, he says it’s all a hobby for him. He runs several other businesses, including a point-of-sale company called POS OneStop and Opala Payment System, which provides secure payment solutions to help make merchant operations more effective. He has offices located in Flushing, Downtown Manhattan, Chicago and China.
His passion for the culinary world stemmed from his experience as working as a bartender and chef. But leaving his other companies behind and concentrating on running restaurants full-time wouldn’t be ideal for him, he said.
“I’m a foodie. I travel around the world, I eat and I’m a whiskey ambassador,” Lye said. “But I wouldn’t do this full-time. I want to be comfortable and I want to enjoy the food.”
He knew that switching the menu from New American to French would be a gamble, but Lye feels like it’s a risk he’s willing to take. When he first opened his restaurant in the neighborhood five years ago, he was told by many that it would probably shut down within three months due to its location. But Lye wholeheartedly disagreed.
“I made it because I believe quality, with your heart, and sincerity, is what people appreciates,” he said. “And over the years, people have thanked me for opening a restaurant in their neighborhood.”
“High-quality food doesn’t have to mean expensive, don’t forget that,” he added. “Our French cuisine includes meals for $15 or $25, which isn’t bad, it’s the same cost as a place like Applebee's.”
Due to the College Point location, Lye noted that the rent was comfortable for him, which allows for the affordable meals for the community.
“If I opened this restaurant in the city or in the Flushing area, it would’ve killed me because the rent is three-to-five times more,” he said. “In other restaurants, you may pay for $100 for one meal. Only $20 to $30 might be for the food, but the rest is for rent, utilities and labor. Here, you’re paying for real food, not for my rent.”
As a member of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Lye has used his connections to organize several holiday dinners for the community in the past.
“Since we like to eat and to drink, in this type of weather, especially around Christmas time, there are just so many people who don’t have the money,” Lye said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, we’re going to serve you.”
Typically, on Christmas Eve, Lye helps to provide 300 to 500 meals to those in need in Flushing.
“One of things that is great about Danny is that he isn’t just thinking of himself as a business person but more about community and how he can improve the community,” said John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. “For him, it’s not just about making money. It’s a social mission of educating people, and that’s why the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce supports Danny.”
As for his goals for the new French restaurant, Lye hopes to bridge the community with a world-class culinary experience.
“I don’t care how smart you are, how rich you are, how famous you are,” he said. “We’d really like to educate the community in food.”