Situated some 200 kilometres northwest of Mexico’s national capital, the historic city of Morelia is well-known for its preserved historic core of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century architecture. Yet, as Morelia has evolved into an increasingly cosmopolitan milieu, the city’s colonial and Indigenous heritage is meeting dynamic new contexts. Case in point, the striking Josafat Zalapa restaurant, which introduces Omakase dining to a restored 19th-century home in the city centre.
Designed by local architects FMA, the 75-square-metre space is defined by an intimately rustic ambiance. A fusion destination incorporating elements of both Japanese and Mexican gastronomy, the restaurant is organized around an Omakase-style experience, where diners sit along an extended counter and enjoy a set multi-course meal of small plates personally prepared by the chef.
Comprising two rooms, both of which look out onto a tranquil inner courtyard, the restaurant’s main space features a monolithic central counter framed by 20 custom seats (designed by Axoque Studio), while a smaller adjacent cocktail room offers a cozier, lounge-like atmosphere. Throughout, warm tones, soft lighting, and rustic textures — from raw wood furnishings and finishes to the building’s original masonry and stonework — draw the eye.
While the pigmented plaster that covers the limestone walls unifies both spaces with an earthy ambiance, the presence of wood is a focal point. Alongside the floors, ceiling joists, counter surfaces and seating, the space is accented by striking wood details. A sculptural, towering tree — stripped of much of its bark — rises from a corner of the bar, emerging through the counter and reaching up beyond the light fixtures.
Lighting is another key element in Josafat Zalapa, contouring the whole of the space to emphasize the organic textures and details. Alongside the warm beams above the main counter, soft lighting along the floor’s edge frames the limestone walls, while additional fixtures accent the smaller cocktail bar, as well as the shelving built into the walls. It makes for a smoky, tantalizing ambiance that inspires a tranquil mood — and whets the appetite.
Warm lighting, organic materials and subtle textures conjure a minimal yet expressive ambiance for fusion restaurant Josafat Zalapa.