The Newest Hotel Dining in San Antonio Lives Up to Its Name
When Destination Hotels and Resorts took over management of San Antonio’s La Cantera resort in 2013, they closed the marquee restaurant, Francesca’s at Sunset, where I had dined just months earlier. The meal (and wine list) had been exceptional, so it was with some trepidation that I wondered about the new manager’s intentions. It turned out they did have a drastically different vision for the space, implementing wholesale renovations from the fall of 2014 through mid-2015 and keeping full-time employees by putting them on paid leave during the construction work.
Francesca’s was replaced by Signature, inspired by Andrew Weissman, albeit in a different part of the resort. Windows now look out at the slope up across the golf course to the main buildings rather than down from those same buildings over the golf course. The main change is that Weissman, the biggest culinary name in San Antonio, is associated with this new place. He opened Le Rêve in 1998, which won national accolades including ranking No. 6 on Gourmet’s list of the nation’s best restaurants and a rave review from the New York Times. In 2009 he closed Le Rêve to focus on a growing restaurant empire anchored at San Antonio’s Pearl development (the magnificent restored former Pearl Brewery). Despite his growing list of establishments he says that he will be in Signature “as often as possible.”
The result, in this golf facility refurbished in Hill Country Club décor, is a fine dining restaurant with a commitment to ingredients that have a “sense of place.” Thus, quail can come from Texas and lobster from Maine. The focus is declarable provenance without the autarky of localism. I believe Signature when they say that they do this — I just wish they would give credit to their suppliers, or at least indicate the geographic origins of ingredients, on the menu.
At the media event I attended, food preparation was well tuned. A foie gras appetizer ($18) appeared on a large white platter as a tower of torchon, a fan of wine-poached pear, a train of puffy brioche buns, and a ramekin of late-harvest Gewürztraminer, pear, and vanilla cocktail. The eye-catching geometry made it look like an instructional device for an order for battle. Five-spice quail ($14) was equally vivid to the eye. The half quail, flattened under a brick and roasted, had a fried egg on top.
Main courses are substantial, with roasted branzino served whole dressed with a salad of arugula, shaved fennel, and saffron beurre blanc ($39) a standout (suffering only in needing more sauce, in the mind of this “beurreblancaholic”). Game makes a strong showing on Signature’s menu and the pheasant ($34) with roasted vegetables, wild mushrooms, and pan jus showed well. I just wish I knew where the bird came from and the types of mushrooms.
The menu offers a full complement of desserts. With the ice cream made in house, I went for a bowl of chocolate, mocha, and vanilla.
Service is polite, usually available, and knowledgeable about the menu. The wine list of some 200 selections does not contain a single Texas wine. This is ironic given that the sommelier at Francesca’s had 35. Nonetheless, the list’s outlook is global with respect to everywhere outside Texas, with even obscure corners of France and Italy represented.
For an upscale meal of New American favorites in impressive surroundings, Signature is a sound choice. San Antonio continues is upward culinary trajectory.