Coming Soon: A Bold 110-Seat Chinese Bistro From The Tokyo Tina And Hanoi Hannah Team

By Catherine Smith
7th Apr 2022

The Commune Group, best known for Hanoi Hannah and Firebird, have added another venue to their illustrious portfolio. Moonhouse will be taking over the heritage site of a former art deco bank in Balaclava. They’ve enlisted some of the city’s best chefs and are serving up Chinese cuisine in a bistro setting—think soft shell crab with black bean and pepper and prawn toast with a prawn bisque dipping sauce (you can never have enough sauce).

For Simon Blacher, the Commune Group Creative Director, the new restaurant is about experimenting with a cuisine that Melburnians know and love. 

"Chinese food is such an exciting cuisine filled with familiar flavours that we love, and Moonhouse, like all our venues, is not bound by tradition, rather inspired by it," he said. 

Alongside dishes like a Hainanese chicken club sandwich and other contemporary takes on the classics, will be a selection of Australian wine, spirits and beers. 

Step inside the kitchen and you’ll be greeted by some familiar faces. Executive chef, Anthony Choi, from Andrew McConnell’s Cumulus Inc; group pastry chef, Enza Soto, from highly acclaimed restaurant Brae; and head chef, Shirley Summakwan, from the group's other popular restaurants. 

“We want Moonhouse to be a neighbourhood restaurant that people travel to from all over Melbourne,” explained Blacher.

For Balaclava locals, the restaurant on the corner of Carlisle Street and Nelson Street is an iconic site. Formerly a bank, it became a fast-food restaurant, before being home for the last decade to much-loved restaurant and bar, Ilona Staller. This legacy is not something Blacher takes lightly.

“I grew up and cut my teeth in this area, and we feel privileged to be taking over such an important site in Balaclava. The building is rich in history, and our design direction respects and embraces its heritage,” he said. 

Moonhouse is a 110 seat venue with a cocktail bar on the first floor. It’s a unique space suited to the unique dining experience the Commune Group is known for. Blacher deployed long-time collaborators from architecture design firm, Ewert Leaf and agency, Space Between, to help transform the heritage building into a fusion of art deco and minimal contemporary. 

2022 marks a decade since the Commune Group started making waves on the Melbourne hospitality scene, and Moonhouse will be their sixth venue. They’ll be dishing out their take on everyone’s favourites this May, at 282 Carlisle Street, Balaclava. 

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