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Xiomara gets its mojito mojo working on Melrose Avenue

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

January 01, 2004|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

It's big news for the legions of mojito fanatics out there: After months of delays, Xiomara on Melrose has just opened, and Xiomara Ardolina is serving the same stellar mojitos as at her namesake restaurant in Pasadena. The secret is a lot of fresh mint and fresh sugar-cane juice pressed to order.

The bar at the new place is an ornate dark wood number based on bars Ardolina remembers from Cuba. The ironwork on the mezzanine's balcony is a copy of the curlicued balcony on a crumbling Havana mansion. Potted palms and the shadows cast from an ornate Moroccan lantern give the place the feel of old Havana.

The menu is much the same as at her original Pasadena restaurant, i.e., updated Cuban with Nuevo Latino accents. What's different here is that she's included some less expensive items -- a classic Cuban sandwich, a Cuban club, a roasted pork sandwich and a sirloin burger -- even at night.

The restaurant is open all afternoon too, for anybody in the neighborhood who craves a snack or a mojito.

Ardolina makes a mean Cuban black bean soup. You can also get a platter of Spanish cured sausages and meats to share for the table. I'm partial to her Nuevo Cubano salad, a mix of hearts of palm, avocado, tomato and watercress in a juicy lime and oregano dressing. The Chino-Cubano fried rice is eminently satisfying too.

Segundos run the gamut from mango-rum glazed prawns or grilled breast of chicken with twice-fried plantains to spicy lamb shank with puree of taro root and Nicaraguan skirt steak with huitlacoche and Cabrales cheese. She also offers a three-course business lunch for $14.

Weekend brunch can be anything from fresh berries and granola or sourdough French toast with Canadian maple syrup to pork hash caballo style (topped with a fried egg) and huevos campesinos: fried eggs with black beans, rock shrimp and Manchego cheese. Any or all ought to call for a mojito too.

*

Xiomara on Melrose

Where: 6101 Melrose Ave., Hollywood

When: Open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Friday, 3:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday, 3:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday; brunch 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Full bar. Valet parking.

Cost: Appetizers, $6 to $12; sandwiches, $9 to $12; main courses, $16.50 to $32

Info: (323) 461-0601

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