Food Travel America

Long Live (hopefully) Luvina

I’ve mentioned it in previous years, and it seems that things haven’t changed all that much in Oaxaca. If you do a quick google search for eating in Oaxaca, the same restaurants always show up. If you’re a dedicated travel food researcher like myself and delve further, you may find a few more interesting places to try. But for the number of restaurants, you pass by on the street in Oaxaca and the number of great suggestions we get from people once we’re here, I find it mind-boggling that you can’t access more information in advance.

This year, I came to Oaxaca with little advance preparation in terms of restaurant hunting. I’ve been busy, and with a few quick searches, I noticed not much new was coming up. Kyle (from Café Brújula) sent a great list of new places to check out a while back, but even with a list of recommendations, I wasn’t able to find much about them online. I trusted that once I arrived, I’d get a better handle on what was new in the city.

As luck would have it, the gang in Oaxaca had done a great job of finding out more information about the new (and new to them) places worth checking out. There didn’t seem to be a plethora of new for the year, but I was still able to fill out my weekend of wonderful dining with new and repeats.

Luvina was recommended by someone who had mentioned that Chef Carlos Garcia was doing exciting cuisine “in the style” of the other young guns in town like Rodolfo Castellanos (Origen) and Manuel Banos (Pitiona). I tried googling more information on Luvina, but couldn’t find anything other than a few mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, (which I don’t consider a credible source for restaurant recommendations). It was early enough in my week in Oaxaca that I felt I could take a gamble on a meal.

Located a bit outside of “convenient” Centro, Luvina is a great open space, although it was a bit weird being the only table in the large restaurant. Being alone in a restaurant in Oaxaca isn’t always indicative of the quality of the food. It’s something that happens quite often, so don’t be turned off if you go somewhere and this is the case.

"Luvina Oaxaca"

We were served some tortilla for the table while we decided on our choices.

"Luvina Oaxaca tortilla"

The gang ordered a great selection from the menu and we were able to get a very good sampling of Chef Carlos Garcia Ramos’ cuisine.

"Luvina Oaxaca sopa tortilla"

Sopa de tortilla esfereca – filled with chicharron, tortilla, chiles and spherified avocado and cheese. One of the best tortilla soups I’ve ever had.

"Luvina Oaxaca tortellini"

Tortellini de flor de calabaza y queso de cabra con aire de cilantro y guias tiernas salteadas

"Luvina Oaxaca risotto scallop"

Black squid ink risotto with scallops – I was happy this was my order because I was happy to have more than a few bites of this.

"Luvina Oaxaca robalo confit"

Robalo confit en aceite de hinojo y laurel – the fish was perfectly cooked. Difficult for a dense white fish, which just goes to show you the skill of the chef.

"Luvina Oaxaca conejo"

Seared rabbit with avocado and salsa – another perfectly cooked protein.

"Luvina Oaxaca elote postre"

Biscocho airoso de elote con helado de hoja santa

There were 5 of us at dinner and we can't remember what this was. I need to take photos of the menu.

There were 5 of us at dinner and we can’t remember what this was. I need to take photos of the menu.

Chef Ramos came out to talk to us after the meal and unlike the other young gun chefs who are from Oaxaca, we found out he is from Mexico City. Most of his training comes from Mexico with some time spent in Spain. He opened a small restaurant in Mexico City before opening Luvina in Oaxaca. Looking around the empty room, I felt a bit more PR work was needed on his part for Luvina to survive and prosper. His food deserves notice, but given that most tourists seem to spend 3 nights maximum in Oaxaca, I just don’t see Luvina being included on most people’s lists. Even though it should be, the food was definitely worth a visit.

"Luvina Oaxaca Carlos Garcia Susy Bando"

Luvina – Mártires de Tacubaya 517, Oaxaca

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