It’s rare that I’ll go twice to one restaurant when I only have 24 hours in a city, but Lu Cocina has the kind of menu that gave me FOMO (fear of missing out) when I left. After breakfast, I had to find out what lunch would taste like. Named for Chef Lucero Soto, the restaurant is housed in an 18th-century building right in Morelia’s historic center. Here are a few reasons why I loved it.
1. Jamaica like you’ve never seen it. Agua de jamaica (hibiscus agua fresca) is a staple in Mexico, but rarely does jamaica appear in other forms. Not the case at Lu. For breakfast, I had the omelette de dos regiones, an omelet of hearty strips of deep purple jamaica, on top of a creamy avocado sauce, covered in arugula. It was sweet and savory and delicate. My mom’s favorite salad here comes topped with candied jamaica: it’s sour and crunchy and addictive. As a starter they have jamaica and jicama rolls— Antonio Guzman, the manager, said they tried to take them off the menu for a bit and the regulars were not happy.
2. Respect for tradition, with modern technique. Recipes here are based on traditional Purepucha cooking, so if you’ve been to Michoacan before you’ll recognize staples like corundas, rainbow trout, or Patzcuaro-style BBQ chicken. The deep respect for cooking traditions and the scholarship is obvious. Thankfully the modern techniques don’t hinder dishes with any kind of pretentiousness but add flavors that are precise and unique.
3. Local producers are all over the menu. Antonio said that one of the restaurant’s main goals is to create financial and exposure opportunities for local producers. And it hasn’t necessarily been easy. While most cooking in Mexico is naturally farm to table, working with niche producers at this scale creates a demand some producers have to adapt to (and sometimes they can’t). One of their local cheese makers, for instance, is now out of one of his aged products— a result of its popularity at the restaurant. From the heirloom corn to local beer to trout from Zitácuaro, the authenticity of the meals is punctuated by their ingredients.
4. The tasting menu. The tasting menu this summer was dedicated to preserving the native corn of Patzcuaro. That premise alone is dope, plus it included one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Red corn kernels, apples, spinach, cotija cheese crisps, strips of chile moreliano, and an orange dressing.
5. Tamales de leche. Michoacán revived my love for tamales, and Cocina Lu had a big part in that. Uchepos are traditionally smaller tamales, usually sweet and made with fresh husks and kernels. At Lu, the Paisaje Michoacano dessert plate takes a Michoacán staple, uchepos de leche, and pairs it with ice cream and a confetti of dark chocolate and flowers. It tasted like arroz con leche in tamale form.
Lu Cocina. Open Sunday to Thursday from 7:30 am to 10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 7:30 am to 11 pm. Right on the central plaza.