Coming soon: Moonhouse to light up the former Ilona Staller restaurant site

The team at Moonhouse, from left to right, Shirley Summakwan, Anthony Choi, Simon Blacher and Enza Soto.
The team at Moonhouse, from left to right, Shirley Summakwan, Anthony Choi, Simon Blacher and Enza Soto.  Photo: Leah Traecey

The Commune Group has shared details of its forthcoming restaurant in the old Ilona Staller site, opening in May.

The striking Art Deco building on a Balaclava corner is currently being transformed into Moonhouse, a Chinese restaurant that, like the group's other venues Tokyo Tina and Firebird, will put its own spin on tradition.

The dish of Hainanese chicken rice, for example, is switching grains for slices, as the protein anchors a reinvented club sandwich.

Bang bang chicken salad with black fungus, grilled Murray cod in shaoxing broth and a hefty piece of Sichuan-spiced brisket served with herbs and condiments will also feature on the menu. A duck feast will be offered using all parts of the bird across sang choy bao, roast duck and tea-smoked duck salad.

The drinks list will be exclusively Australian.

Head chef Shirley Summakwan has worked across the group's other venues and will be supported by executive chef Anthony Choi (ex Cumulus and Firebird) and group pastry chef Enza Soto (ex Bibelot and Brae).

The Commune Group are also behind modern Asian restaurant Firebird in Windsor.
The Commune Group are also behind modern Asian restaurant Firebird in Windsor. Photo: Parker Blaine

Downstairs, a dining room seating 74 people will feature lots of curves to reflect the building's exterior, while upstairs is a 36-seat private dining room and cocktail bar with its own snack menu.

Italian restaurant Ilona Staller occupied the former bank building for 10 years before closing in December 2020, leaving a pair of big and nostalgic shoes for Commune Group to fill. But creative director Simon Blacher is acutely aware of the challenge and has embraced it.

"We've done our best to unravel the building and bring it back to a raw state, then layer in [Moonhouse]," he says.

"I think it's one of the largest and most recognised buildings on that strip. It means we have a responsibility to a) take over that restaurant and b) to do it justice."

Moonhouse is scheduled to open in May.

282 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, moonhouse.com.au