Chef Andrew Weissman, who first gained a regional and national following with Le Rêve in the heart of downtown and has since expanded his culinary reach to River North, the Pearl and beyond, will open Signature at La Cantera Hill Country Resort & Spa.
The new restaurant is set to open in the fall.
Weissman is best known today for his high leading presence at the Pearl. The opening of Signature will represent his first venture into high-end dining outside the urban core, where he will find no shortage of interested locals craving award-winning cuisine, as well as La Cantera guests drawn to the resort for its luxury accommodations, two golf courses, spa, and nearby luxury shopping.
Industry sources say Weissman was heavily recruited to come north and establish a destination restaurant at the resort, which currently boasts nine restaurants and bars on its web page, but has lacked a fine dining option operated by a name chef since the demise of Francesca's at Sunset.
The 550-acre La Cantera resort is perched on a hilltop not far from Fiesta Texas that dramatically signals the start of the Hill Country. It previously was part of the Westin hotel family, but underwent a management and name change at the end of 2013 and then closed for an extended period in 2014-15 for extensive renovations and remodeling. It reopened for business to rave reviews in April 2015.
Signature will be a freestanding venue apart from the main resort, with easy access off La Cantera Parkway across from the main entrance to The Shops at La Cantera in a building that once housed the resort's golf academy. The building was gutted to make way for an all-new interior. Its proximity to the Mira Vista Apartments and The Shops at La Cantera will likely draw a clientele that is a mix of locals and resort guests.
John Spomer, La Cantera Resort & Spa vice president and managing director, sees the new addition as the "signature" charm to a larger "charm bracelet" that makes up the rest of the resort's food and beverage program.
"The beauty of the building is that it looks like it's this quaint (place) off the country road, like Napa Valley or somewhere in the South of France," Spomer said. "It's a very unusual, warm, and inviting country attraction. It fits into the resort because we don't currently have an upscale dining experience."
Weissman, a four-time James Beard Award finalist, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park in 1996. His initial stint as chef-owner of the classic French restaurant Le Rêve, which opened in the downtown Exchange Building in 1998 and closed in 2009, first placed him on the culinary map. The small destination restaurant was touted as one of the 10 best in the country and garnered rave reviews. Texas Monthly regularly named Weissman the top chef in Texas.
Since then, Weissman has extended his run as a cutting-edge chef even as he and his wife Maureen, a familiar front of the house presence, have grown the business into a major restaurant group. His properties include Osteria Il Sogno and Sandbar Fish House & Market at the Pearl, and the recently revamped The Luxury, the laid back sandwich and beer garden at 103 Jones Ave. on the San Antonio River near the San Antonio Art Museum.
Weissman also owns Moshe's Golden Falafel on McCullough Avenue in Olmos Park. He plans to open two more Moshe's restaurants, one in the historic King William neighborhood, and another on East Houston Street in the emerging tech district, as well as a chicken sandwich joint, Max n' Ella's Chicken Shack, named after his two children.
Weissman said Signature's cuisine will be rooted in French traditions with South Texas accents that caters to a broader spectrum of diners. The menu, coupled with the rolling hill landscape, will create an environment "where everything melts away and you don't feel you're in San Antonio anymore," Weissman said.
“I love serving local, regional products, but if that’s not the best quality product, I have no problem having it imported from the South of Italy or the East Coast, whether it's seafood or truffles," Weissman said.
Well-crafted, Old World cocktails and a stellar wine-list will provide ample beverage options, and patrons will be welcome to visit the restaurant's walk-in wine cellar.
"You'll have everything from Armagnac to rye to a Champagne cocktail served in the appropriate glasses, just made really special and with care, but not something where you have to wait 20 minutes for your drink to be ready,” Weissman said.
“There are a lot of ties between the South of France and the Texas Hill Country, like lavender, the weather, the terrain, the atmosphere…” Giles said. “We’re using local and regional materials like limestone and reclaimed wood from Joske's — the old department store in San Antonio — as well as custom steel doors. Everything is very open, we've (even got) a beautiful old limestone salvaged fireplace mantle from France.”
Antique French and Texas furniture dating back to the 18th century will enhance the decor, Giles said, and complement locally crafted handmade light fixtures and handrails. The restaurant will feature custom mission tile work, and artwork displayed on the upstairs gallery wall.
"We have a lot of fowl taxidermy that we are putting on the wall," Giles said. "We even have a stuffed boar which will be an iconic piece, perhaps (we'll place it) in the lobby when you walk into the seating area."
Weissman promises a hotel restaurant "of another kind." It's difficult to convince patrons to dine in hotel restaurants, he said, but he predicts Signature will prove to be the exception.
“Food is only a third of the equation in a restaurant. It’s okay not to be as particular if you have other things to incorporate, since a big part of it is offering the complete experience,” he said. “I’m bursting at the seams. I think this the most exciting restaurant that (will show up) in San Antonio. It has the potential to have a transformative impact on the city."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Andrew Weissman and his wife Maureen opened Big'z Burger Joint #1 at 2303 N. Loop 1604 West between Bitters and Huebner roads in 2009, when his sister, Lauren Stanley, opened the restaurant in 2006.
Top image: Andrew Weissman poses next to the adult leisure pool at La Cantera Resort and Spa. Photo by Scott Ball.