I decided to give Xiomara on Melrose a shot. A friend of mine told me they hired a new exec chef and they had a new menu. I found myself in the area one day so I decided to round up some friends to meet for dinner. Times are a little weird with the economy, so I have found myself not trying too many new restaurants out for fear of taking a chance and being disappointed. Nothing worse than wasting money. Hey, money is tight these days. I have learned to rely on the old standbys because I at least I know I will be satisfied.
Ok..back to it...my only familiarity with the place is one visit I made to the Pasadena location a few years ago when their menu featured Latin dishes. Even thought I felt it was a little pricey back then, I was happy...mostly with the mojito. I remember liking my fish dish. I can't remember exactly what I had. I think it was sea bass.
We ended up coming to the Melrose location thinking I was about to drop some coin by taking a chance on something new. With a group of 7 in tow, we were greeted by the hostess and seated promptly upstairs. The downstairs was packed with people sipping those electric green mojitos in slanted glasses. I initially thought the area where our table was located was a little too dark, but my eyes adjusted after a short while.
Now the food... we had the a few dishes to taste. As I glanced at the menu, I noticed the prices were cheaper than what I remembered from the last location.
The small plates/apps/salads ran between $7-$9.
Entrees were in the $14-$20 range. Ok..I was feeling a little better about taking this chance.
Heirloom Tomato Salad: Three of us decided to try the heirloom salad tomato salad with hearts of palm, sourdough croutons and basil to start. It was really tasty. I was surprised it how satisfying it was. The tomatoes were thick and juicy. I was kinda expecting a wimpy salad...but not this one. It was a hearty salad. Another friend had the Caesar salad with romaine hearts with white anchovy and croutons. At first, I thought the Caesar salad choice was not a good one--hey, you can get a Caesar salad anywhere, right? I did not get a chance to taste it, but she said it was nice and not overly fishy or salty.
Beer battered prawns: Someone from the group ordered the beer battered tiger prawns with Jalapeño, roasted red pepper and puree and garlic aioli. I did try them...really good and surprisingly crispy. I have had bad experiences with fried items at similarly priced places...they tend to get soggy very quickly or overly breaded. These were light and full of flavor. The jalapeno was a nice touch.
Seared Salmon: Someone from the group ended up ordering the seared salmon with corn soup, lima beans and asparagus. This was the star of the night for me. The corn soup was really good---it was like a bisque. The fish was not overly fatty...I think they cooked this one nicely. The crispy skin on the side was excellent and a cool touch!
Seared Diver Scallops: My brother had the seared diver scallops with fresh bean ragu, roasted tomatoes, pea tendrils and crispy shallot. He really enjoyed it. I thought the scallops were cooked perfectly. They tend to be tricky.
Gnocchi with Duck Ragu (people split on this one): One person who ordered the Gnocchi with duck ragu said it was very good and not gamey at all. Personally, I really liked the duck ragu.
Mojitos: Awesome. Real cane juice. Sounds like they have been good for awhile. Hype deserved. The drink is a little too easy drinking...they are strong., Maybe I am a wimp, but I got a light buzz off one. The use of cane juice makes it smooth.
Things they can work on:
Service that night: The server was quick on taking our order, but our food took a little longer than we expected, but not enough to complain. It must have been because they had a packed house that night. Being fair, it may have been an unusual night.
The Pork Chop: The pork chop came cut for me. I am not sure how I feel about having my chop sliced. I think it releases the juices too quickly. The pork somehow maintained its moisture, but I would prefer a whole chop. The smoked goat cheese polenta could have been better body wise. It may have taken a little too long to get to us. It looked like it broke a little. The braised kale and small rolled bacon bits did save the dish. I especially liked the kale.
Gnocchi with Duck Ragu: A couple of people were torn on this one. Two people said it was nice and with a good shape and taste. Another friend said the gnocchi was a little chewy for his taste. The jury is out on this one.
A little more light upstairs: I appreciate low light, but there seemed to be darker spots within the upstairs dining room. I like to be able to see my food with enough light to really enjoy the colors. This is just a personal thing.
I regret not trying a few items that stood out to me. Among those include:
Crispy pork belly with roasted Jerusalem artichoke, smokey eggplant puree, crispy kale and pork jus.
Lamb Riblets with pickled green beans, pearl onions, radish and red wine just.
The hanger steak with arugula fennel salad and side of fried potato with two sauces.
Has anyone else tried this place?
6101 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038