Top Rated: Le rêve
The heavyweight champ of San Antonio's food scene, this restaurant practically hides from those who aren't in the know. Its near-invisible signage, white print on opaque windows, and the locked front door (use the one on the side) make getting in Le rêve difficult. Also, reservations at the 14-table spot are hard to snag, so plan early. All that trouble is worth it, however, the nanosecond you put fork to mouth. The night I visited, chef/owner Andrew Weissman churned out a dizzying array that included foie gras and candied apples in puff pastry, caviar, tournedos of beef, cheeses, fruits, and roasted vegetables. Course after course flew out of the kitchen, along with thoughtfully paired wines, Champagnes, and ports. I can't overemphasize the professionalism of the waitstaff--they are courteous and attentive without being pompous or solicitous. Lastly, outside of a feast I had in Morocco one summer, this may be the longest dinner I've ever experienced--almost four hours. 152 East Pecan; (210) 212-2221. Three-course dinners start at $80.
Local Favorite: La Fogata Mexican Cuisine
On your way back to the airport, stop by this simple Mexican restaurant. The lush oasis of chirping birds, trickling fountains, and extravagant plantings seems wildly out of place in this rather battered neighborhood. No matter. Order a fabulous margarita garnished with a stunning orchid bloom, and get down to business with their dark and smoky salsa, tender fish tacos, and sticky-sweet tres leches cake. 2427 Vance Jackson; (210) 340-1337. Entrées: $8-$25.
Biga on the Banks
Gourds on strings, seats wrapped in golden leather, gauzy curtains concealing intimate banquettes, warm woods, and serene views of the River Walk make Biga a fabulous-looking restaurant. The food measures up as well. I started with a spinach salad topped by apples, bacon, and Brie that maintained a crisp and bright taste despite its dense ingredients. Pistachio-crusted lamb atop saffron-dusted polenta was tender and spicy. Likewise, a dish of Texas quail and venison amazed me with the quality of the venison--not a hint of gamy chew or sinew. I suggest wrapping up with a soufflé--a poofy masterpiece. 203 South St. Mary's Street; (210) 225-0722. ; (865) 584-7744. Dinner entrées: $17-$37.
The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills
This undiscovered spot in the burbs consistently delivers robust flavors such as the candy-apple-glazed duck breast I had one night a few months ago, accompanied by fries soaked in the drippings, a tart apple confit, sherry reduction, and grilled apricot. 1746 Lockhill Selma; (210) 349-8466. Three-course meals from $45.
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"Food Finds: San Antonio" is from the March 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.