For those among you that have been with Parma Daze from the beginning will remember the reviews going quiet between the end of March to late April, during this time I was away on a quick tour of that little country on the opposite side of the globe known as the United States of America.
Las Vegas and California were the two places I visited on the trip, and while in both locations I made a point of seeking out a parma to see how well the yanks do ‘Chicken Parmesan’ (Pronounced how us Aussies would pronounce ‘Parmigian’, not like the cheese). I’ll do a review for both, lets start with the Rainforest Cafe, at the MGM Grand Casino, Las Vegas
Part restaurant, part bar, part gift shop, The Rainforest Cafe is located within the MGM Grand casino on the Las Vegas strip. While there was no Barry, there were at least ten million pokies, roulette wheels, table games or hookers to chose from along the Las Vegas strip - an acceptable alternative.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, the Rainforest cafe is themed (drumroll) like a rainforest, with anamatronic animals everywhere, massive aquariums, real water falling from the trees and a planetarium style false sky in the roof (complete with thunderstorm every hour), its really something you need to experience.
Elephants, Gorillas and Monkeys … oh my!
I looked through the menu and found the closest match to a parma I could find - the ‘Parmesan Chicken Expedition’, The drinks menu was quite interesting, offering something called a ‘Cotton Candy Martini’ which looked as if they soaked Fairy Floss in various alcohols and served it in a martini glass, this was a little intimidating so I went for a beer instead.
Noticing (as I have with American parma’s other times I have had them) they do not come with the usual chips & salad, There were no chips (or ‘fries’) on the side menu so I opted for a bowl of onion rings as a side to try and compensate - this backfired however as the ‘side’ of onion rings came out a good 20 minutes before the parma, I was already finished them before the chicken even arrived.
This is the parma as it was put on the plate in front of me, complete with splatter of already dried hard (under the heat lamps no doubt) spaghetti sauce across a plate that would look at home in my grandmas kitchen, even the sprinkling of garnish on top of the cheese looked sad and withered. With much hesitation I grabbed my cutlery and started my Parmesan Expedition.
Its a good thing I was in Sin City, as there was enough full frontal schnitzel nudity to make me think I’d wandered out of the Rainforest Cafe and into Holly Madison’s Peepshow. The chicken itself was as thin as a credit card, but the crumbing had some herbs mixed through it so it wasn’t that much of a fail in the taste department. The Napoli (or ‘Marinara sauce’ - which amazingly contained no seafood) was extremely sweet, almost sugary, and the cheese was absolutely tasteless, extremely rubbery - probably as a consequence of sitting under the heat lamps.
As I mentioned earlier, there were no chips or salad to speak of, in its place was a pile of linguini with plain napoli sauce and two small pieces of garlic bread that were so hard that I think I chipped a tooth attempting to eat one. Pasta is an ok side, but not in place of chips or salad - this isn’t a one off either, this is how they do parma’s across the pond, always served with a pile of pasta. Sorry America, but you need to get on to this, Parma with Fries! you won’t regret it.
The venue is spectacular, absolutely no place like it, unfortunately they seem to be a major tourist attraction and thus SO busy that the food has greatly suffered. on the way out you are ushered through an immense gift shop, so you can buy a memento to remember your meal. too bad it was a parma I’d rather forget.
This frog was pretty happy though.
On to the second attempt from my American holiday! ‘Louie’s Pizza & Pasta’ at Universal Studios, Hollywood.
I will start off the review by stating the following - I was under no illusions that this was going to be a good parma, I was at the Universal studios theme park, had just come off ‘The Simpsons Ride’ (The most amazing roller-coaster simulator experience I have ever had) and was feeling a bit peckish. ‘Doc. Brown’s Chicken’, the ‘Jurassic Cafe’ and the ‘Flintstones Bar-B-Q’ all had hideously long queues - Louie’s queue was only just out the door so it seemed like the best option (as the above photo shows).
There is no restaurant inside, through the door pictured above, the queue continues to snake around inside the building before you find yourself in front of a counter length heat lamp, divided into three sections - PIZZA, PASTA and in a small section in the corner by the soda fountain, CHICKEN PARMESAN. I knew it would be terrible, but I took an oath when I was a young boy that I would never turn my back on a parma if it were available. I wasn’t about to break my sacred vow so I picked up the plastic plate of parma, filled my paper cup with Coke, paid for my meal and took a seat in the outdoor eating area
Mmmmm Mmmmm! looks tasty doesnt it!
I feel as if i have run the ‘shnitzel nudity being an adults only thing’ well and truly into the ground by now, but come on Louie’s! this is a family place!. I don’t even think I need to go into how the parma was, there was a light dusting of barely melted cheese - the photo is misleading as you may think all that napoli is covering more chicken, you are mistaken, that napoli is the napoli for the pasta - the schnitzel itself had barely any napoli OR cheese on it at all. it did have a couple of pieces of penne on it is a garnish, I am unsure as to whether this is an American serving variation, or some pasta just rolled on top when it was served, either way it was appreciated.
As with the rainforest cafe, the napoli was amazingly sweet, but actually didn’t taste too bad, parma aside, the pasta was actually pretty tasty. Again it was served with a piece of garlic bread, this was the hero of the dish, it was fresh, (they put it on seperately instead of letting it sit under the heat lamps) cooked just right, and I would actually consider adding a piece of GB as a serving suggestion to Aussie parma’s, very nice addition.
I’m not going to score either of these parmas as it wouldn’t be fair, its kind of like comparing apples and oranges. Americans, you do a lot of things right, but parma just isn’t one of them. Before you send me hate mail I will say I am aware that I didn’t select the most reputable businesses for review and I wouldn’t take what I have written as a judgement on the American parma scene as a whole, on previous trips I’ve sampled the Chicken Parmesan at places such as Maggiano’s or Buca Di Beppo and was not disappointed.
You guys really need to get on to the chips & salad though … seriously.
The search continues …