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Revamp in River Oaks

Armando's gets a new chef -- and a new attitude

Two minor disappointments: papas y chorizo ($7.95) -- an enchilada filled with potatoes and sausage -- was much too tame. Mexican chorizo should set the mouth ablaze. And hongos al ajillo ($8.50) -- grilled wild mushrooms -- were utterly bland, the promised ajillo (garlic) nowhere in evidence.

Hansson, former owner of Manna Bread Co., hails from Sweden and has worked in kitchens in many parts of the world. But as good as he is, he has his quirks. Fried cilantro is one. It crops up again and again. As do caramelized onions. And the desserts cry out for attention. The Key lime pie was leaden, and the creme brulee, a mottled affair, looked so dispirited, just looking at it made my heart sink.

My companion did claim to enjoy the Mexican chocolate mousse cake, but she hails from Holland, a country with no culinary tradition to speak of. Or hardly any. When put to it, she tells me, she can do some very clever things with tulip bulbs.

Armando's, 2300 Westheimer, 521-9757.

Eric Lawlor, the Houston Press's new restaurant critic, is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and has worked in the kitchen of New York's River Cafe. The author of three books, he's written about food for Saveur, Conde Nast Traveler, and The New York Times. In a former, less respectable life, he was the Press's Big City Beast.

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