Moonhouse to bring updated Cantonese classics to Balaclava

The Hainanese chicken club sandwich looks destined for cult status.
The Hainanese chicken club sandwich looks destined for cult status. Photo: Jana Langhorst

The dynamic team behind Tokyo Tina, Firebird, New Quarter and Hanoi Hannah has added Moonhouse in Balaclava to their collection.

The art deco corner bank building, most recently housing Ilona Staller (from the Cicciolina crew), has been sensitively renovated into a two-level beauty.

The building has been reimagined: black shutters and distressed plaster walls frame a 74-seat dining room that's at once warm and sleek, with bottle-brown glass panels allowing diners to peep into an extended kitchen, helmed by Shirley Summakwan.

Ilona Staller's door handles have been turned into a sculptural wall feature and the old rainbow-striped resin bar is now a swirly artwork lining the stairway to the first floor cocktail bar, which has an open fireplace.

An impressive private dining room is upstairs too: it seats 30 at a long table punctuated by lazy susans and serviced by its own kitchen.

"We're thinking of Moonhouse as a Chinese bistro," says Commune Group creative director Simon Blacher.

Simon Blacher and drinks consultant Claudelle Savannah at Moonhouse.
Simon Blacher andĀ drinks consultant Claudelle Savannah at Moonhouse. Photo: Leah Treacey

The more-or-less Cantonese menu balances nostalgia and contemporary flourish, with an emphasis on clean, light flavours.

Prawn toast is rethought as a layered crisp alongside a prawn bisque dipping sauce. Pipis are tossed with garlic shoots, XO sauce and noodles.

The instant cult dish is a crustless club sandwich made with Hainanese chicken, complete with glossy chicken fat dipping sauce.

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The "duck ceremony" is a DIY platter that melds Peking duck pancakes and san choy bao-ish lettuce wraps.

Summakwan has been with the group for five years, working up from sous chef to acting head chef to her first head chef gig.

"We have a lot of internal talent," says Blacher. "It's given us a lot of fulfilment to see Shirley progress into her new role."

Moonhouse will serve a modern spin on prawn toast.
Moonhouse will serve a modern spin on prawn toast. Photo: Jana Langhorst

She's working in concert with group pastry chef Enza Soto (ex-Brae) and group executive chef Anthony Choi.

A smart food-forward wine list is by Claudelle Savannah (Public Wine Shop).

The owners are connected to the area and committed to giving back to Balaclava.

"The more time we spend around the building and the neighbourhood, the more we feel a sense of responsibility to Carlisle Street to make this an anchor restaurant," says Blacher.

Moonhouse will open for lunch Sat-Sun noon-4pm and dinner Wed-Sun from June 1.

282 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, 03 9088 8022, moonhouse.com.au