In Short: A cafe by day, and fine diner by night, God’s Creation truly reflects its name; heavenly good food. Our recommendation is the risotto, and the desserts deliver the perfect ending to an evening.
One of my favourite suburbs in Sydney is Balmain. Known as the home of the working class, because it was the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party back in 1891, it started out as an industrial area and many of the houses that you see around Balmain were initially built to house people who worked in the ship yards, metal foundries, and soap factories at that time. Today, most of those houses, especially those along Darling Street, have been converted to retail space and restaurants. What I would give to own one of those houses in Balmain that backs onto the harbour and its leafy streets belie the fact that Sydney CBD is just a mere five kilometres away.
Just like its residents, the food scene in Balmain is very diverse. There is no lack of good food to be found here. Even famous Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo chose to open his flagship shop here when he first started. It therefore comes as no surprise that when God’s Creation’s head chef and owner Chef Cross, and his wife Helen, had a choice of location for their first café/restaurant in Sydney, they chose a site in Balmain.
Newly opened in October 2017, the sprightly green-walled space offers Italian food with an Asian twist. Head Chef Cross has 20 years of experience in Italian cuisine. At 30 years of age, he was head chef at Blue Lemon restaurant in Hong Kong but decided to take a gamble by moving his family to Sydney. After a few years working at two different high end Italian restaurants in Sydney, having honed his skills in Italian cuisine combined with his Asian roots, he finally decided to open his own restaurant so that he could express his passion and creativity for Italian cooking.
God’s Creation sits on Darling Street in Balmain, with indoor and outdoor seating available. The interior walls of the café is painted a classy teal green, and with brown timber flooring it creates a warm, cosy feeling. To add to the relaxing quotient, the café also plays jazz music, which all together serves to encourage patrons to sit back, relax, and enjoy a leisurely meal complete with drinks from the available full bar.
For entrée, our recommendation is the Calamari Fritti with lime aioli and chilli dip from the Antipasti Dinner Menu. The calamari is fried to perfection, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. But the highlight of the dish is actually the lime aioli, that’s served with a fiery chilli sauce that requires respect. The flavours of the lime aioli were fresh and tangy, while the chilli dip was hot with hints of garlic flavours. In fact, it reminded me of the chilli dip used for Hainanese Chicken Rice. To balance the dish, there was also a small side salad with wafer thin slices of pickled radish. It is a light enjoyable dish that sets the tone for more great food to come.
With an entree setting the standard, the level of sophistication was surpassed with our mains. Coco and Viner Sacha loves his seafood and could not go past the Barramundi alla Procida. This dish is a celebration of the famous Australian fish, with the Barramundi fish fillet cooked skin side down to give it the all-important crispy skin. The white flesh of the fish is cooked just right, tender and juicy that immediately flakes away when touched with a fork. It sits on a bed of tomato relish, made with cherry tomatoes, anchovies, and olives. Served with green beans, a ring of red sauce on the rim, dotted with yellow emulsion, and a piece of bread stick balancing across the plate, the dish is not just delicious, but visually stunning as well. This is a dish that showcases Chef Cross’ attention to detail in his cooking, where every element is carefully thought through and deliberately plated to showcase the food.
To really hit home that Chef Cross is serious about his Italian offerings, God’s Creation’s signature dish has to be their Risotto di Sicilian. The creamy, al-dente risotto rice is cooked with a luscious seafood medley of prawns, ling fillet, scallops, and calamari. What makes this risotto stand out is the liberal use of saffron, giving the rice and seafood a very appealing vibrant yellow hue. There are generous portions of seafood mixed into the risotto, and to add to the colours of the dish, there is also the use of edible flowers as garnish to contrast against the yellow. It is served in a deep red dish to truly allow the colours in the dishes to stand out. To say that the dish tasted as good as it looks is an understatement!
No meal for me is complete without dessert. Choosing a dessert each, my pick was the Crème Brulee. Edible flowers and strawberries are once again used to garnish the top of the dessert, hiding the perfectly caramelised sugar crust. It is with great anticipation that I am holding the spoon in my hands, ready to crack into the top, and I was not disappointed!
The slight charred flavour of the caramel contrasted really well with the sweet, eggy custard hidden below. The custard is creamy and fragrant, peppered with actual tiny vanilla seeds, indicating that Chef Cross has used whole vanilla pods and not just vanilla extract. It is also set to a perfect level of firmness with a slight wobble; a benchmark of a good Crème Brulee.
For Sacha, no Italian meal is complete without a serve of Tiramisu. Chef Cross has chosen to serve his tiramisu in individual wine glasses, which allow for the perfect individual portion of the dessert each time. The cocoa powder on top of the dessert serves as a nice bitter contrast to the richness of the mascarpone cheese filling underneath. Chef Cross decided adds strawberries and blueberries, not something commonly served with traditional tiramisu. I think it is a great choice, and almost makes you feel a little less guilty indulging in this sinful dessert as you can now say there is fruit in there as well. The flavours are authentically Italian, and I was very impressed with how well an Asian chef has mastered the traditional Italian dessert and stayed true to its original flavours.
When you put passion and love into your cooking it is reflected in the end product, and this is definitely the case with Chef Cross. He is passionate about his cooking, but he is also equally passionate about the presentation of his dishes. Looking at each dish that is brought out with pride from the kitchen, you feel like each element in his dishes are deliberately and carefully placed and presented on the plate, which results in a meal that is not only top notch in flavours, but in presentation as well.
In fact, the food is so good, I am now eagerly looking forward to returning to God’s Creation to try their breakfast and lunch menu as well.
*Coco and Vine dined as guests of God’s Creation