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Cover 02/27/2013

Andrew Weissman poised to open The Luxury in addition to two more restaurants

Photo: ALL PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN, License: N/A

ALL PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

ALL PHOTOS BY JOSH HUSKIN

Work in progress at Minnie's Tavern


Meanwhile, he opened the Sandbar Fish House & Market, another relatively small, up-scale venue in the same building as Le Rêve, occupying the tandem street level spaces at the Exchange Building on E. Pecan. A little less exclusive, the Sandbar specialized in high-quality seafood: multiple varieties of in-season oysters, fabulous seafood bisques and chowders, and a focus on the freshest ingredients possible. Combining his pantries, Weissman could maintain his high culinary standards for both casual dining and for exclusive, long, lingering evening meals. The plan worked for close to 11 years: Le Rêve was unparalleled, and the Sandbar was a successful consolation for those who couldn't afford or get with the heightened aesthetic principles of French haute-cuisine. "I didn't close Le Rêve for financial reasons," says Weissman. Both restaurants were doing well. He and Maureen, who ran the front-end operations, were doing what they loved, and doing it together. It did, however, require all of their collective time and energy.

Regarding the success of Le Rêve, Weissman says they had "created a monster." To maintain that level of excellence — and to justify the expense of the fine dining experience — required more than a full-time commitment. With two restaurants and the birth of their first child, Weissman was torn between his obsessive attention to culinary detail and commitment to his family. The Weissman's served their last meal at Le Rêve in October of 2009. Ultimately, it came down to practicality: "If you're paying, essentially, $200-$300 for a meal based on my skills and reputation, I need to be the one in the kitchen preparing the food. It just became unsustainable."

So Le Rêve closed, the Sandbar was going strong, and the Weissmans had a growing family. Meanwhile, Chef Weissman developed Big'z Burger Joint and Sip Espresso & Coffee Bar — two venues that prove good food need not be expensive or complicated. Says Weissman, "I'm in love with concepts that fill a hole in the market," and along came an invitation to open something at the Pearl. Weissman knows a good thing when he sees it and, like his more recent move to acquire the historic Boehler's building, some opportunities you just can't pass up. Originally conceived as more of a traditional Italian coffee bar, the concept for Il Sogno ultimately developed into an upscale homage to the osterie and trattorie of Italy, serving classic Italian fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Weissman says that when he closed Le Rêve, the idea was to open a place that would be a little more low-key and higher volume.

"French food was always such an education," he said. "People are more familiar and comfortable with Italian food somehow; almost everybody has some experience or connection with it."

With the immediate success of Il Sogno, Weissman moved Sandbar to the Pearl, where he could more readily keep tabs on both places.

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