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Criollo opens this week

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  The historic Hotel Monteleone marked its 125th anniversary last year by beginning a major renovation, and this week the hotel debuts the latest part of the project: the new Criollo Restaurant & Lounge (214 Royal St., 681-4444; www.hotelmonteleone.com). It will open for breakfast Wednesday and add lunch and dinner in June.

  Criollo takes over the space that formerly held the Hunt Room Grill and has headed in a new direction. This new restaurant's name is Spanish for "Creole," and executive chef Randolph Buck and chef du cuisine Joseph Maynard promise a blend of Spanish, French, African and Caribbean cuisines tailored to modern culinary trends. For instance, the preview information lists dishes like a chilled shrimp, blue crab and avocado timbale; a trio of oysters (topped with Swiss chard and Herbsaint, angel hair tetrazzini, artichoke and Brie); and grilled Gulf fish with grilled hearts of palm, black bean and avocado salad, charred papaya and maitre d' butter.

  In a departure from the Hunt Room Grill's dark, clubby atmosphere, Criollo has an open kitchen, booths and private rooms.

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