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.