Some dining events are a casual dinner out, or a night free from cooking.
But then there’s the gustatory adventure intended to be photoshopped and selfied for sharing. This describes the cozy setting and atmosphere of an evening at Armando’s Hideaway.
The word “hideaway” conjures up a dreamlike setting: remote, discrete, off-track, lamp-lit with castle-keep stone walls and suave whispered welcomes.
Armando’s delivers all this in a magnificently undisturbed neighborhood privado tucked away at the west end of Ajijic. The interior is splashed with murals from baseboard to ceiling, rich with Mexican color, images and flair, with a handsome Spanish Revivalist fireplace as an interior centerpiece. The venue is spotless and elegant. A few well-set tables with double linens, low-lighting, and chapel serenity are perfect for a carefree, intimate huddle with good friends, a romantic table for two, or just a dinner away from the crowds and bluster of larger venues.
For starters, our table shared a plate of flambe mushrooms, served with onions and chopped bacon, perfect for waking the taste buds. Fresh croissants came along instead of the usual basket of bread.
Service never lost track of us, and our orders all came precisely at the same time, gratefully overcoming the challenge of varying prep times for the array of orders.
My dish was the filet brochette (pronounced broshet). This was a skewer lined with hunks of steak, onion and sweet peppers, hot from the grill. It was standard fare with its accompanying, freshly-made mashed potatoes and string beans. But it was splendidly prepared and presented. Unfortunately, there were few options for sides other than the mashed potatoes and beans.
One of my table guests ordered a filet mignon, aromatic and luscious, topped with sauteed mushrooms, which also came with cooked vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Flambe dishes at Armando’s are renowned specialties, from the pepper steak to an almandine fish filet. If requested, a chicken breast dinner can be flambed for you with a tangy mustard sauce. When fired up properly, even a chicken breast remains tender and juicy, offering remarkably intriguing flavor sensations when slathered with a buttery, onion-perked mustardy sauce.
But what was truly spectacular was the red snapper. This was a head-to-tail plate of snapper grilled nicely enough to crisp the skin while the flesh beneath remains moist and tender inside. It came with a garlic and cheese-dressed side of linguine and the ubiquitous string beans.
But there is also an enticing selection of fajita dishes including a “seafood melt” a “surf and turf brochette,” which is a shrimp and beef kabob. While not extensive, the menu is a varied roundup of splendid meat dishes, all pairing nicely with the house cabernet sauvignon.
Vegan salads can be ordered customized, providing a dinner-sized bowl of fresh vegetables, with most favorites and standards available.
Desserts featured a number of fancy flambe dishes from Crepes Suzette to peach flambe and more. The banana flambe came flaming hot and made for a spicy dessert special on a chilly winter’s evening.
For gracious fine dining, Armando’s is a genuine original here in Ajijic. Privado Ocampo 18, between Ocampo and Zaragoza. Open 1-9 p.m., closed Tuesdays. Tel: (376) 766-2229.