There’s a 5-star bistro in the Zephyr Heights area |

There’s a 5-star bistro in the Zephyr Heights area

Rick Chandler
Dan Thrift / Lake Tahoe Action / Bistro Danielle staff, from left, Rich Dwyer, chef; Max Goldberg, waiter; Patricia Persell,manager; and Todd Noonan, waiter, welcome you to their resturant at 605 Highway 50.

“In everyday life the bistro is woven into the daily pattern of meals and celebrations. The restaurant where they know who you are, greet you warmly and serve you satisfying foods that change with the season and define regional homey French cuisine.” — Bistro Danielle

For Leslie Irwin, this paragraph in her Bistro Danielle menu is more than mere words. She has lived and worked in the restaurant business for 25 years, and knows the ingredients necessary to make a success.

“You really have to know Tahoe before you open a restaurant here,” said Irwin, who had vacationed here often before deciding to relocate here from Los Angeles a year ago. “This is a small pond, not like Los Angeles or San Francisco. Consistency is important here. You have to understand the necessity of fine dining.”

Bistro Danielle — named for Irwin’s daughter — is just that; fine dining with a friendly attitude. Irwin has helped create and run several restaurants in southern California, most recently in Beverly Hills. But this is the first one that she has owned herself.

“I bought it a month ago, and we opened three weeks ago,” Irwin said. “That’s really fast, but I knew what I wanted.”

Bistro Danielle is a five-star restaurant featuring Northern Italian and French cuisine. A simple trip through their menu is enough to make the mouth water: grilled bruschetta, avocado pancakes, Dungeness crab salad, shrimp scampi and roasted rack of lamb are just some of the favorite dishes to emerge from chef Rich Dwyer’s kitchen.

Dwyer, by the way, is here forthe long haul; he’s not one of those chefs who establishes a menu for a restaurant’s opening and then moves on, leaving the kitchen to a regular cook. His specialty, by the way, is wild game, which has already become a popular menu item.

Irwin has big plans for Bistro Danielle; there’s plenty still to do. The building, in the Zephyr Heights area, 605 Highway 50, will soon include a lounge with a piano bar. There is already outdoor garden seating with eight tables and heaters. Irwin also is a decorator, so one knows that the decor is top drawer.

“I’ve managed several five-star restaurants and I know that everything you do has to be for the customer,” Irwin said. “We are very proud of our food, but also of the nuances and the presentation, while is also very important. And it seems to be working so far; we are already getting many repeat customers, which is just amazing, considering the short amount of time that we’ve been open.”

Irwin’s husband, Russ Irwin, has been in the building profession for 30 years and is handling most of the expansion work. Her brother (she is one of nine siblings – seven of whom live in Tahoe), Paul Bruso, has owned Ernie’s in South Lake Tahoe for 28 years.

“I was a kid raised by a school teacher, who found out early that you could make money in the restaurant business if you did it right,” she said. “Plus I’ve always been service oriented; I like taking care of people.”

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