Mala Project’s Amelie Kang Plans New Retro-Inspired Mediterranean Restaurant For Houston Street

The team's latest project will establish an exclusive yet friendly spot that will offer daily live music events.
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The minds behind one of the East Village’s most dynamic new Chinese restaurants are currently getting ready to launch a colorful new concept on Houston Street.

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Only Love Strangers is a brand new Mediterranean restaurant concept that is currently planning on opening in the Lower East Side. The restaurant is a new project from partners Amelie Kang, Simona Petrovska, Christian Castillo, Yishu He, and Irene Li. The team is best known for launching Mala Project, an innovative East Village Chinese restaurant that sought to bring unalerted, original Chinese dishes to New York in a 90s China-inspired ambience. Famous for their 24-spice dry pot and inviting dining experience, Mala Project opened up in 2015 to mass critical acclaim, earning a Michelin Bib Gourmand Recommendation and introducing the city to the restaurant’s ambitious young founders. For her work with Mala Project, as well as her other concepts Tomorrow and Ghost Bar, Amelie Kang and her team were featured as a Forbes 30 under 30 winner, as well as Eater’s Young Gun and New Guard awards.

Now, after years of successful operation of Mala Project, Kang and her team are now gearing up to launch a brand new restaurant concept. The concept, Only Love Strangers, is described as a “reflective oasis in downtown NYC… offering Mediterranean inspired dishes, elegant cocktails, and live jazz entertainment.” Leaning into a retro-60’s/70’s aesthetic, the space will showcase a sleek and creative setting with a petite stage, jukebox, and vintage photobooth, capturing an optimistic energy that will “create a spellbinding experience for guests whether with loved ones or strangers.”

For the menu, guests can expect to enjoy Mediterranean finger foods and shareable plates that are elegant and flavorful, as well as a happy hour that features seafood towers, charcuterie towers, and vegetarian options with raki and champagne. Sample items from the menu include eggplant carpaccio with poached quail egg, shepherd’s salad, steamed mussels, roasted leg of lamb, and wild mushroom ragu, as well as late night and brunch options that include “hangover soup”, grilled kabobs, and fried bread. The restaurant will also feature a robust beverage program, offering premium cocktails including traditional classics as well as unique new Mediterranean-inspired creations.

Only Love Strangers is currently slated to open up at 177 East Houston Street, replacing a former pizza restaurant that previously occupied the space. Excitingly, the owners have tapped studio LOVE IS ENOUGH to design the space, who were also responsible for the design of recognizable spots like Le Crocodile, Rule of Thirds, and Ace Hotels. According to their application, the planned aesthetic theme for Only Love Strangers will be “a sophisticated and calming space dipped in silver and various shades of blue”.

At the moment, Amelie and her team still need to meet with the community board to acquire a new liquor license for the space. They are currently proposing operating hours of 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday (and closed on Tuesday), 5:00 PM – 2:00 AM on Friday, 12:00 PM – 2:00 AM on Saturday, and 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM on Sunday. While Only Love Strangers is still too early into development to have its own social media presence, you can follow along with the team at Mala Project for regular updates on all of their latest endeavors.

Jake Rogers

Jake Rogers is an author and playwright based out of Brooklyn, New York. A lively performer who is deeply passionate about history and literature, outside of his reporting he also produces short films and plays with his theatre troupe, the LSTC. He is currently producing a web series about a butterfly and moth who are roommates that will be released later in the year.
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