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A modern Chinese diner from the Hanoi Hannah crew, housed in a two-level, heritage-listed art deco building.
By Libby Curran
July 20, 2022
By Libby Curran
July 20, 2022

The Commune Group has proved it's got the goods when it comes to contemporary Vietnamese and Japanese flavours — see Tokyo Tina, the Hanoi Hannah stable and Firebird. But the team has crossed the continent and embraced a modern Chinese angle for its Balaclava venture, Moonhouse.

Residing in the heritage-listed art deco building formerly home to Ilona Staller, the 110-seater boasts a sophisticated look by renowned studio Ewert Leaf. Heritage features have been carefully refurbished, now complemented by colourful onyx marble counters, custom vinyl tabletops and pendant lights hung like tiny lunar spheres. An upper level houses a 30-seat private dining room, alongside a separate cocktail bar complete with roaring fireplace.

The kitchen's playing to Melbourne culinary nostalgia by dishing up a contemporary reworking of some classic Chinese flavours — think, a Hainanese chicken club sandwich ($16), Sichuan-spiced steak tartare ($20) and an addictive take on the familiar prawn toast served with a prawn bisque dip ($16).

You'll find dan dan noodles with mushroom and sesame ($22), a crispy-skinned half chook paired with lemon pepper and sweet chilli ($29), and grilled Murray cod in a shaoxing broth ($46). The 'Duck Ceremony' comes with half a roast duck, pancakes, plum salt, hoisin, confit duck leg ssam and everything else needed for a DIY peking duck feast ($44).

And with Group Pastry Chef Enza Soto (Brae, Baker D. Chirico, Bibelot) heading up the dessert offering, expect to finish your meal on a high note — perhaps with the coconut soy pudding and mandarin sorbet ($14).

The mindfully-sourced, all-Aussie wine list is a standout, as is the craft brew selection starring drops from Hop Nation and Stomping Ground; the latter's even teamed up with the venue for a collaboration Czech-style pilsner.

Images: Parker Blain, Jana Langhorst and Leah Traecey.

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