The word hideaway conjures up a number of images: remote, discrete, off-track, lamp-lit with castle-keep stone walls and suave whispered welcomes.
Armando’s delivers all this and more in a privado tucked away at the west end of Ajijic.
Reminiscent of a gracious old-world establishment for the cognoscenti, this handsome little venue, with its rich splashes of color, regal flair and undisturbed privacy and coziness, lives up to its name. Its most notable distraction is an entire interior wall featuring a splendid mural depicting panoramically a pristine Lake Chapala beach and its early fishing-village life.
Also inside, wall-sized mirrors, intended to suggest greater physical space, regrettably do nothing more than betray the venue’s genuine intimacy as one watches one’s self go by and is tempted to greet what appears to be a familiar visitor. Another mural to replace the mirrors would enhance the setting and the hideaway ambiance. Despite this distraction, the setting, with its few well-set tables, double linens, low-lighting, and chapel serenity, remains a pleasant place to dine – perfect for a carefree huddle with good friends, a romantic table for two, or just a dinner away from the crowds and bluster of larger venues.
After starters, which included an individually prepared and possibly perfect, genuine Caesar salad and a plate of flambe mushrooms, our dinners were served, all arriving exactly at the same time and before our table had finished its first glass of wine, gratefully overcoming the challenge of the varying prep times.
A chicken breast dinner with a tangy mustard sauce wasn’t on the menu, but I was able to order it just the same. Chicken when tender and juicy and slathered with a buttery, onion-perked mustardy sauce has a remarkable way of creating intriguing flavors, because this one was seasoned and intended for pork or beef. I added vegetables and freshly made mashed potatoes. My table guests ordered a pepper steak, aromatically flambe-ed for us by the table; and the pork chop plate, both of which came nicely presented with freshly cooked trimmings – a barnyard roundup that went down agreeably with the wine and raised many compliments.
The restaurant is noted for its flambe specialties, from the pepper steak to an almandine fish filet. But there is also an enticing selection of fajita dishes including a “seafood melt” and something referred to as a “surf and turf brochette,” neither of which I’d ever seen before.
Presentations were appealing and the service attentive without being interruptive. Desserts featured a number of fancy flambe dishes from Crepes Suzette to peach flambe and more.
For gracious fine dining, Armando’s is a genuine original in Ajijic. It’s definitely a hideaway, but you won’t need your Garmin to find it. It’s located far west over Calle de Zaragoza and just off right to the lakeside on Ocampo Privado.