Los Angeles Times:
Xiomara Shifts from Cuban to Budget-Friendly California Cuisine
by S. Irene Virbila
" ...Xiomara has recently changed the concept, this time to California cuisine, a first time for her... the new Xiomara doesn’t carry the passion or sense of discovery of the original, but offers solid, well-priced California fare and attentive service ... the energetic Cuban-born restaurateur (continues) to run the dining room, which she does with aplomb, noticing everyone and everything.
"I love sitting up on the mezzanine framed by graceful wrought iron, looking down on the main room with its terra cotta floors and brick walls. Huge arched windows look out onto the street, where a few sidewalk tables are set under an awning. From above, you can see the tables of other diners as a decorative element, their plates and wine glasses arranged on crisp white tablecloths.
"...Every few minutes you can hear the whir of the machine that extracts the fresh sugar cane that goes into the mojitos, the best in town.
"The new menu is both user-and budget-friendly …. That’s a good thing, separating Xiomara from pricey special occasion restaurants. As for the food, it’s easygoing California cuisine that relies on fresh and seasonal ingredients..."
" (Xiomara's new) menu includes some strong starters. Juicy red heirloom tomatoes make an appealing salad with pale sliced hearts of palm and basil. Crinkly, crunchy Little Gem lettuce is tossed with bacon, blue cheese and kalamata olives in astutely balanced lemon-shallot vinaigrette. A heap of creamy burrata comes not with the usual tomatoes, but with mushrooms a la grecque. An unusual idea, but it works.
"Soups are generally good, too. It could be pumpkin or, the other night, a lovely potato and leak puree garnished with Tuscan cabbage and fried onions. Another good choice is the tiger prawns fried in beer batter so gossamer it’s barely there, all the better to taste the garlic aioli and sweet red pepper puree."
"Meat-happy carnivores are going to go for the lamb riblets, slow-roasted so they’re all crunch with a sticky sweet sauce cooked deep into the meat. Crispy pork belly will appeal too, its richness nicely set off by roasted Jerusalem artichoke and a smoky pureed eggplant.
"Mains are more straight-forward, but thoughtful accompaniments are a bonus. With seared scallops, heirloom beans (are served) in their cooking juices. This combination somehow makes sense: earth and sea. Moist pan-roasted chicken breast comes with a late summer succotash and chanterelle mushrooms.
"Ardolina made what must have been a tough decision to give up her Cuban-accented nueva Latina cuisine for tried-and-true Californian. But she’s made the transition with typical grace and style, aiming to turn her namesake restaurant from more of a special-occasion place to a neighborhood fixture. Yet underneath it all is something ineffably Cuban, which comes out in the warm service, that buttery bread and at lunch the Cubano sandwich upgraded with Black Forest ham, slow-roasted pork and Swiss Cheese."