Nearly a week ago, chef and restaurateur Andrew Weissman announced that he would be closing his well-known San Antonio fine dining restaurant, Le Rêve. His plan is to move on to an ambitious schedule of culinary projects, many of them to be at the Pearl Brewery. Le Rêve — which means “the dream” in French — will close Oct. 31.
This announcement was a stunner to those who have enjoyed not only the small, beautifully appointed restaurant at 152 E. Pecan St. over the past 11-plus years, but who have felt proud of the recognition it has brought San Antonio. If Gourmet magazine listed it as the sixth best restaurant in the nation, as it did a few years ago, that broke a barrier of sorts: No, it’s not just Dallas and Houston that have fine dining in Texas — San Antonio can do it with the best of them.
We asked Weissman some questions on the day of his announcement and visited with him the following day as he assisted with the lunch crowd in his newest venture, Il Sogno, at the Pearl Brewery. Another of his restaurants, Sandbar, downtown next to Le Rêve, will move to the Pearl Brewery in a few weeks.
Q. Did the economy have anything to do with your decision to close Le Rêve?
A. No, no, no. If that was the case, there wouldn’t be any reason to open other restaurants, which I plan to do.
Q. What was your main reason for closing a successful venture such as Le Rêve?
A. Well, I have a lot going on in the next six months, and I would like to spend more time with my family. At the end of the day, I’d rather be remembered as a great dad, not just a guy who puts out great food.
Q. Your wife, Maureen, has worked side by side with you at Le Rêve over the years, and you have two young children. Will she be coming along to help with the new restaurants you are planning?
A. I think that Maureen is going to be able to semi-retire. And, if I have to go to a birthday party for the kids or friends, I’ll be able to do that now, too. My wife and I have sacrificed nearly every family event (while working at Le Rêve). Still, closing it will be bittersweet.
Q. Did you discuss the plans with your staff ahead of time?
A. Yes, I pulled them all together a few nights ago and told them. I also told them they would all be going over to the Pearl Brewery with me. We are all going to move a level up.
Q. How many restaurants can you see yourself owning eventually?
A. I could see as many as 20 or 21 restaurants, most of them here at the Pearl, some of them in other areas of San Antonio.
Q. You seem dedicated to San Antonio. There have been rumors in the past that you were considering a move, such as to Houston.
A. I’ve had offers to work in other parts of the country for as much as $300 grand, but didn’t take them. Those rumors about Houston wouldn’t go away. I’m still haunted by them.
Q. How is Il Sogno doing?
A. We’re still working on it. It’s at about a six, and we need to make it a 10 or an 11. It’s a matter of every day, constant tweaking and tweaking. But we started on better footing here than we did at Le Rêve 11-and-a-half-years ago — we started here at a higher level.
Q. With Le Rêve gone, where would you recommend your customers go for that very special night out, be it romantic or celebratory?
A. For romantic, I’d say Fig Tree or The Lodge at Castle Hills. For celebratory, I’d say Sandbar.
Q. Sandbar will be moving over here in a few weeks, which gives you two restaurants here at the Pearl. Is there another romantic, high-end restaurant in your future?
A. Yes, well, but I can’t say much more about that yet.
Q. What has been the reaction to the announcement that you were closing Le Rêve?
A. Some of the statements and responses have really been hurtful. Like, “You can keep your $200 a plate food in New York.” But as of last (Friday) night, the phone calls from my customers were streaming in after they heard the news. They really were also partners in my business, and I thank all of them, the critics, customers, clients and, of course, my wife. She’s been putting up with this for a long time.
Q. Are there any more openings for dinner at Le Rêve between now and the end of October?
A. Some. But they’re filling up fast.