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Major Mexico City Restaurant Group Is Opening a Two-Story Taquería + Restaurant Featuring Escamoles and Birria…at the Grove

Grupo Hunan, a major player in Mexico’s fine-dining corporate restaurant world, is bringing its next concept to The Grove next month.

The company, which owns 25 restaurants in Mexico, is preparing to open a two-story restaurant called Alma in the spaces formerly occupied by Cronut-creator Dominique Ansel’s bakery and 189 restaurant. Alma’s forthcoming debut marks the group’s first foray into U.S. restaurants.

On the ground floor, Alma will house a combination taquería, cocktail bar, and market that will open this December. Following the arrival of the new year, a full-service Mexican restaurant with a coastal design scheme will occupy the second floor, focused on a fine-dining experience.

Details on the menu so far remain slim, but press reps note that there will be tacos al pastor, birria, and the edible ant larvae delicacy known as escamoles. This may suggest a possible D.F.-focus for a group that had its start in Mexico City in 1993 with the opening of Hunan, described on the Grupo Hunan website as the city’s “first Chinese restaurant.”

The shiny, slick, fountain-adjacent Grove location may not immediately fill local taco-hunters with the same visions of Mex-cellence as say, a mariscos-heavy Inglewood backyard, concrete barbacoa-pit in a Compton garage, or downtown alley ruled by a sobaquera specialist. Especially considering the most recent Mexican food addition to the adjacent Original Farmer’s Market started out by serving us basic flour tortilla quesadillas listed as “tlayudas” on the menu. (pause to bang head on desk).

However, Ansel’s now-shuttered restaurant was notably good, earning just accolades from Jonathan Gold and an ensuing position on the L.A. Times 101 List, despite the many snob-lobed sneers over its mall setting and Cronut-hungry tourist hordes.

Across the way, Blue Ribbon’s sushi is reliably stellar, no less on the fried chicken tip. At the Original Farmers Market, Rick Dominguez’s Rick’s Produce Market to its was recently added to their solid roster of tenants, a handful of which have been operating there for over 87 years.

Hunan’s portfolio counts 24 restaurant locations in Mexico City and one in Cabo San Lucas, many of them replicated as their own distinctive brands under the direction of talented kitchens and staff focused on upscale experiences and service.

These include numerous locations of the resurrected Guadiana, Argentine-Mexican steakhouse Sylvestre, Italian concepts Tavola Prosecco Rustica and Negroni, Mediterranean Lampuga, and modern Mexican Nueve Nueve located within the Roma neighborhood’s historic Casa Lamm cultural center. The company has also opened two Nobu concepts in Mexico.

Despite its size, Grupo Hunan is a family-owned affair, like so many of our favorite Mexican eateries. Founded by Pepe Cuaik in 1993, Grupo Hunan also has its own design studio, Cuiak, whose website shows construction action shots and elegant renderings of the Alma space. The restaurant itself will exist under the oversight of siblings Pepe, Diego, Santiago, and Teresa Cuaik. And guess what? They’re hiring.

Overall, the company’s strong reputation, professional imagery, sharp design, and forays into regional cuisine suggest the level of operator that should fit perfectly into Rick Caruso’s well-staged mall concept.

In any case, we're for sure looking forward to eating escamoles and al pastor before frolicking at The Grove's seasonal [fake] snow in many winter wonderlands to come.

Alma~ 189 The Grove Dr. Suite H-4, Los Angeles, CA 90036

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