Where? - 289 Wellington St, Collingwood
Price? - $22. $2 to add prosciutto, 50c to add jalepenos
Website? - http://thegembar.com.au/
Reviewers – Dale, Lee, Nikki, Stefo, Tony [/info]
Way back in August 2012, After we did our extremely disappointing review of the Leinster Arms in Collingwood, we were on our way home and passed a decent looking pub - I remember the tables out in the street being relatively packed for a Thursday evening, chock full of patrons having what seemed to be a salubrious time knocking back a few bevvies.
That pub was The Gem, and I made a mental note to check if they had a parma - I got on the ol' Google later that night and confirmed that a parma was indeed available so I put it on the list of pubs to try, and it was pretty much forgotten about... Until last night, When after over a year of waiting, we finally got to the Gem.
As soon as we walked through the doors I knew I liked The Gem, its a Melbourne backstreets local bursting at the seams with personality and spirit. The pub was already alive with locals in high spirits getting their post-work drinks and tucker. Wooden floors, wooden tables, wooden everything gives The Gem great character, We went to the bar and grabbed a few pints (great range of beers on tap here, we went with the Mountain Goat Steam Ale ... a lovely drop)
The front bar was full and it was a bit chilly to sit out the front (even so there were plenty of people braving the weather in favour of the atmosphere of a la carte beers) so we ducked around the back to a cosy dining room. There were signs indicative of an upstairs dining room also available, but it seemed to be closed the night we were there (we figured the large, steel cactus sitting at the top of the stairs is the universal sign for "closed")
We took our seats and checked out the menu - The Gem has got your traditional pub fare with a Spanish/American twist. You've got your classic steak, burger, fish & chips and parma, but for the adventurous there are some quite unique items such as buttermilk chicken tenderloins, soft shell crab tacos and a 14-hour pulled pork sandwich. It all looked delicious, but we found the parma and weighed up our options -
We asked before ordering and the no-frills parma does not come with ham, so we spread it out a little and 3 of us got a parma with prosciutto and 2 got parmas with "the lot" (both prosciutto and jalapenos).
I wen't against my normal judgement this week - When it comes to novelty toppings on a parma I am a staunch traditionalist and always try to opt for the "original" parma when other options are available, In saying that, prosciutto is just fancy ham - so I don't consider that a "novelty" topping, and the jalapenos... well... I'm a sucker for a good jalapeno, I don't have any excuse other than that. So I went against my better judgement was one of the two of us that ordered "the lot".
After about a 3/4's of a pint wait our meals arrived from the kitchen...
My first thought when the parma hit the table was "Woah... This is thick!" and it was, scroll down to the cross section pictures below, take a look and scroll back up. I'll wait...
I know, right!?
It'd be up there with one of the thickest parmas we've ever had, impressive on that aspect alone. We tucked in. I started on the left hand edge and my first few bites were jalapeno free, and rather disappointing. Sure the chicken was thick, but it was bland as buggery - A definite case of big parma syndrome. There was plenty of cheese but that was a little dry and tasteless, I got a mouthful with prosciutto and that helped a little but it didn't have the trademark salty kick that a parma with prosciutto normally carries. Everyone at the table grabbed the salt shaker in an attempt to liven the dish up a little. There wasn't a lot of napoli, it was detectable but subtle, with hints of red wine.
Then I got to the jalapenos. Hot damn. My complaints about lack of flavour were gone. For just fifty cents I was expecting a light sprinkling of peppers, but no - this was a full layer completely covering the dish. It was an explosion of spice that was bordering on too much, and really saved what was initially quite a bland dish for me.
But this is why I don't like novelty toppings. The peppers were such a strong flavour that for the rest of the dish that is all I could taste. the cheese, the napoli, the prosciutto and the chicken were all rendered moot as everything was lost in the jalapenos.
You can't really tell just how thick it was from this first photo, so I laid my fork beside it to give it a little perspective...
The chips were a great escape from the spicy onslaught. I would have loved a slightly bigger serving but they served their purpose fine. Well cooked, well seasoned. Nothing noteworthy but nothing bad about them either.
The garden salad had plenty of fresh ingredients - Lettuce, onion, cucumber, tomato and capsicum, No complaints about the quantity of "stuff" in this side dish - However they covered it in a very sour dressing that, to be honest, tasted like pure lemon juice. It was tolerable at first but by the end it got to be a bit much and I didn't end up finishing my salad.
Value is a dicey one this week, $22 for that parma is a bit much for a parma without ham, yes its a thick bit of schnitzel that everyone walked away from absolutely stuffed, but to make it worthwhile we had to shell out $24.50. The 50 cents for jalapenos is great value considering how liberal they are with their serving of them. However $2 for prosciutto seemed a bit much, especially when its flavour was so lost beneath the jalapeno's flavour. If I found myself back at the Gem I would save my two bucks, skip the pork and just stick to the chillis, you wouldn't notice if it wasn't there anyway.
This is a tough one to rate. The three that didn't have the jalapenos weren't happy with the dish at all, and I can see why - before I got to the peppers my parma was bland as hell. I was glad I got the peppers in the end as they truly made the dish.
This is definitely a parma for the spice lover, and I'd only recommend it as such - If you're into jalapenos then you wont be disappointed with this parma and I'd say definitely give it a go, however if you're not that brave and prefer your parmas traditional then I'd say give this one a miss, sure its thick, and I wanted to like it, but it's just too flavourless to get it over the line.
- Astonishingly thick schnitzel
- Perfect for the spice lover
- Without jalapenos it was very bland
- Can get expensive with all the "extras"
Parma - 5.30
Chips - 6.20
Salad - 5.80
Value - 4.60
Total - 5.44
The search continues...