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See Me Raw

Hana:
212 Little Collins St, Melbourne VIC
hanarestaurant.com.au

 

Mention you’re heading to a Hawaiian restaurant and the reaction is always the same: a look of bewilderment followed by a funny-looking smile. “Sounds like fun.”

Yes. Hana is fun. Not cheesy-tacky fun, more a playful kinda fun.

The cocktails are great fun. All tiki focused and named after beaches and waterfalls on Maui, like the ‘Twin Falls Jungle Bird’. My favourite is the ‘Honolua Bay Sharknado’, a mix of dark rum, Cointreau, passionfruit, lime, orange and orgeat (a sweet syrup, almost like liquid marzipan), served in a shark’s head tiki glass — try taking yourself seriously sipping on a ceramic white pointer.

The food is as fresh as it is delectable, with a focus on raw fish and share plates. 

Head Chef, Mario Manabe, was raised in Hawaii, was classically trained and worked as Curtis Stone’s sous chef for four years in both the United States and Australia, before collaborating with owner, Matteo Bruno on Hana.

“Working with Mario in what I believe to be Melbourne’s first Hawaiian restaurant has been

incredible. He is a serious talent and we can’t wait to showcase our menu to Melbourne and

beyond,” says Matteo.

Once occupied by Hairy Canary, the site has been transformed by Samantha Eades (refurbishment at Chin Chin, fitouts at Hawker Hall and The Meatball & Wine Bar on Flinders Lane), who worked closely with  Matteo and builders MIC Projects. Neon pink illuminates the ceilings and walls, interspersed with custom made Monstera-leaf wallpaper and pineapple shaped light fittings that lend a truly tropical vibe.

ROAD TO HANA

venue spoke to Matteo about the genesis of the venue. Matteo is best known as the owner of the Meatball & Wine Group of restaurants, so I wondered how he decided to take the punt on Hana. 

Matteo: I was in Hawaii last year for Mario’s wedding. The idea of bringing some of that Hawaiian atmosphere to the Melbourne CBD seemed like a good idea.

I worked on a some food ideas with Mario. Over time it felt like there was enough there to have a menu with a focus on raw product.

I found the site on Little Collins Street, which had been home to Hairy Canary for 21 years and went about looking for materials and a design aesthetic to evoke the feeling of a holiday destination without it being tacky in any way.

There is a sophistication to the site and you definitely see that in the food, and the venue itself has to play off that.

venue: It could have easily tipped over into tiki bar territory.

Matteo: That was biggest challenge: knowing when to hold back. The materials — the brass, bamboo — and the soft pastels all work but we held back on overdoing the flower motifs. The feature neon is definitely playful and it also gives off a soft pink glow. It’s not overdone.

NO RESTAURANT IS AN ISLAND

Hana is a punt. Sure, the poke bowl craze (an LA take on a Hawaiian specialty) has meant Hawaiian food is at least in the Australian foodie lexicon. But Hana is, as far as anyone can tell, the first Hawaiian restaurant in the country. Even then it’s a little like launching an Australian restaurant in Hawaii. The staff could wear cork hats and serve Fosters or you could have a modern interpretation of what it means to eat and drink in an Australian context. Hana is sophisticated interpretation. But not up itself. The Sharknado tipple makes sure of that! 

— Christopher Holder

 

CONTACTS
Samantha Eades: samanthaeades.com
MIC Projects: micprojects.com.au