A HOLLYWOOD GEM FOR CALIFORNIA CUISINE
Veteran chef and restaurateur Xiomara Ardolina has been a fine dining Southern California fixture for nearly 30 years having opened several successful and popular restaurants in town, starting with The Epicurean in La Canada back in 1979, Xiomara Restaurant in Old Pasadena in 1991, and Xiomara on Melrose in Hollywood in 2003. Known for offering charming, intimate ambiance and flavorful food her restaurants have consistently received acclaim from critics and patrons alike.
Having recently revamped her Xiomara menu, the restaurant, now led by new Executive Chef Michael Reed, has switched from Cuban-inspired Nuevo Latino cuisine to savory California Cuisine offering a style of cooking that emphasizes the use of fresh, locally grown produce and allowing knowledgeable young chefs to be creative and innovative.
California Cuisine is the result of the abundance of farmers’ markets, greater public awareness about the production of food, and the appreciation that sophisticated diners have shown for the variety and freshness of locally grown food prepared by a new generation of talented young chefs.
"People who enjoy fine dining want to know more about food, how it’s prepared, where it’s from and if it’s fresh,” explains owner Xiomara Ardolina. “Many of my customers shop at local farmers’ markets and are very knowledgeable. When they come to my restaurant I want them to appreciate how we prepare their food and have a fine dining experience that is upscale, yet affordable."
"Xiomara on Melrose is a restaurant where people can come several times a week and have anything from fresh pasta to fresh fish or a great simple salad,” adds Executive Chef Michael Reed. “I want them to be comfortable with anything from a small plate to a ten-course meal, knowing that we always use the freshest ingredients. I want my food to tantalize the senses."
And indeed, during our recent visit, our taste buds were pleased and delighted. We started off with the restaurant’s signature cocktail The Mojito, their most popular drink served in very cool looking slanted glasses. Perhaps the more you drink the straighter the glass will look.
Looking to first sample from the Small Plates menu we selected the Sweet Potato Croquettes with chile-coconut sauce, the Truffle Risotto with sautéed rock shrimp and shellfish emulsion, the Crispy Pork Belly with roasted Jerusalem artichoke, smoky eggplant puree, crispy kale and pork jus, and the Slow Roasted Lamb Riblets with pickled green beans, pearl onion, radish and red wine jus. These mouthwatering selections were wonderfully paired with a recommended glass of Merlot.
The Potato Croquettes are divine little fried balls of sweet potato served with a savory chile-coconut sauce that is just perfect to dip your bread into to help clean your plate. Meanwhile the hearty Truffle Risotto with sautéed rock shrimp and the juicy Slow Roasted Lamb Riblets should both be entrée items because they’re that good. These were knockout favorites.
From the Main menu, we went with the Seared Sea Bass with butternut squash consume, sous vide fennel and cracklings, along with the Seared Diver Scallop and mustard glazed sweet breads with Brussels sprouts, caramelized onion, apple wood smoked bacon as our entrees. These were paired with a refreshing glass of Sauvignon Blanc that really brought out the wonderful flavors of our seafood dishes.
The Sea Bass, a personal favorite dish of mine, was different than most places, it’s prepared more as a soup almost, and the butternut squash addition is original and extremely flavorful. Although not exactly what I was expecting, it’s a fresh and hearty dish that will delight without guilt. The Scallops were very tasty but it is a small plate so if that’s all you’re having you’ll probably still be hungry, which could be a good thing if you opt for dessert.
To finish off our delicious meal with went with the Budin de Pan, the decadent soufflé chocolate bread pudding served warm with Gavina coffee custard sauce that you pour directly over the soufflé once you’ve cut into it (due not this order takes 45 minutes so plan ahead) and the Mascarpone Cheesecake with allspice crumble and pumpkin ice cream.
Following the recommendation of our hostess we opted to slightly tweak our orders and added a shot of Kahlua to our soufflé that really brought out the wonderful chocolate taste, and dabbled a shot of Grand Marnier to our cheesecake that truly elevated the already deadly dessert to a whole new level of indulgence.
California cuisine at its finest, a meal at Xiomara, aided by its cozy and lounge-like vibe, must be savored to truly be appreciated. Do yourself a favor, indulge and enjoy.
Xiomara is located at 6101 Melrose (between N. June Street and N. Hudson Avenue) in Hollywood. Hours: Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am - 3pm; Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5pm - 10pm; Fri-Sat, 5pm - 11pm; Closed Sunday. Valet parking available.
Photography courtesy of Xiomara Restaurant