So after getting lots of advice re where to go in Pasadena, I decided to try Xiomara. Here's my postgame report:
We picked 5 small plates and shared each one. Given that we often like to share things and thus order in a nontraditional manner, servers often times cannot pace the food as we would like it, but Xiomara was different. Our waiter, Tim, gave us completely attentive service and delivered each dish at exactly the right time. How refreshing.
We started with the highly (on this board and in reviews) recommended mojitos and a ceviche. Neither impressed me. The ceviche was really just a glass full of pico de gallo with some scallops and shrimp mixed in. I've had much better ones before, and would not order that again. I love mojitos but these I did not find to be good at all. Something was not right - they tasted almost medicinal. I quickly switched to a Chilean red by the glass, which was terrific. I had forgotten there is no corkage. Next time, I'd bring a bottle, though the list by the bottle was pretty good (though not a ton of by the glass options).
As an aside, I think the bread plate is pretty lame for a restaurant of this caliber, though the black bean sauce is ok.
After the ceviche, we had the mussels. They were large in size and the broth was tasty. I was relieved b/c after the ceviche, I was not thinking I was going to enjoy this meal.
The next dish was the seared tuna w/ some type of creamy mash of black beans. It was perfect.
Then we had the rock shrimp tamal in a creamy lobster sauce. The masa was moist and flavorful, and the sauce surprised me by being a nice addition. At this point, we were feeling good about Xiomara.
Finally, we had the ropa vieja made with duck. I'm not a duck eater and I found it to be tender and perfectly accompanied by a manchego cake of some kind - delicious and unusual.
We finished with the chocolate bread pudding/souffle w/ coffee creme anglaise poured over it. Yummy dessert, but I must warn that it is verrrrry heavy. We shared 1/2 and left the rest, and that was plenty.
The total bill was about $110, for 5 small plates, dessert, 2 mojitos and 2 glasses of wine. With the exception of the mojitos (I think they were made by someone who normally does not make them) and the ceviche (which was not bad, just nothing special), I'd definitely recommend this place. And b/c some chowhounds mentioned bad service, ask for Tim! Also, request a table by the window in front of the bar.