Where? - 392 Little Lonsdale st, Melbourne
Price? - $18
Website? - http://www.horsebazaar.com.au/
Reviewers – Lee, Matt, Nikki
From the moment I picked Horse Bazaar I knew it was going to be a unique experience. "Parmas at a Japanese cocktail bar" doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, yet in my research of places to try on the north side of the CBD, Horse Bazaar kept appearing.
How weird could it possibly be? We loaded up the parma bus and headed to Little Lonsdale street to find out.
Horse Bazaar is definitely not our usual kind've place, although it was far less "Japanese" than I was expecting - Other than a few flourishes of anime on the wall of projected images that ran constantly it was pretty much your standard CBD cocktail bar. The menu had a definite Japanese bent (other than the parma, of course) but Horse Bazaar had already subverted a lot of my expectations.
We arrived early, about 6:30 if I recall, to a virtually empty pub (this changed as the night wore on, by the time we left it was relatively busy) We pulled up a pew and checked the menu -
$18 for the parma (or チキンカツ, as it is translated on the menu) with your choice of original, curry or minced pork varieties. Having enjoyed the curry parma at St. Kilda's The Wee Chief immensely I opted for the curry variety tonight while everyone else went with the original. It's also worth noting that Horse Bazaar also has both a vegetarian parma and a parma burger available.
Four beer taps at the bar had a respectable range. Kirin, Southern Bay, a Temple beer and a cider, nothing too fancy but enough to wet any whistle with a couple of more bottled options in the fridge. Horse Bazaar is primarily a cocktail bar and it seems to be what they do best as some of the drinks we saw getting whipped up as we ate looked damn good.
With a lightning quick turn around of no more than 7 minutes, our チキンカツ were out of the kitchen
The Original チキンカツ -
The Curry チキンカツ -
That ... actually didn't look too bad! Different, but tasty.
Without hesitation I tucked in and instantly knew what they had done. If you've ever had a chicken Katsu Don, swap out the rice for some chips and salad and you've got yourself Horse Bazaar's curry チキンカツ, in fact a quick google tells me that "チキンカツ" does not translate to Chicken Parma, but is in fact the direct translation for "Chicken Katsu". I see what you did there, Horse Bazaar. Very sneaky.
It wasn't a traditional parma, but it was good! The schnitzel is exactly what you would find on a chicken katsu. Rather than one piece of schnitzel the parmas foundation was made of a few smaller chicken pieces, held together with toppings and sauces. It was a little thinner than I would normally like, but perfectly crumbed and delightfully crispy.
Flavour-wise all I could taste was curry sauce, it was delicious, and exactly what I had ordered, but it absolutely annihilated every other flavour on the plate. The cheese was light sprinkling of shredded parmesan, the "napoli" was an almost salsa-like mix of freshly diced tomatoes, onions, sesame seeds and other ingredients that reminded me more of a bruschetta topping than anything else.
Mayo is an interesting addition to parma topping that I honestly didn't hate. After this I'd be interested to try a more traditional parma with a splash of mayo included.
I enjoyed mine immensely, but the rest of the table that ordered the original チキンカツ did not share my enthusiasm. The general consensus on the original being "It tastes good, but it isn't a parma", to which I'd be inclined to agree.
The one thing everyone could agree on is that the chips were a surprise highlight. Beer battered, well seasoned, crunchy and piping hot ... A fine addition to the チキンカツ, and went very well with the curry sauce.
The salad was okay, a similar bruschetta style topping that was on the parma was also on the salad. It was fresh and tasty. Nothing to write home about but nothing to complain about either.
For $18 I walked out satisfied. It was a little smaller than we would normally expect but any price tag under $20 these days is a win in my book. I think there are some lunch specials on the website but not sure if the parma is included - might be worth a gander.
If the bastard lovechild of a chicken katsu don and a chicken parma sounds like something you might be interested in then Horse Bazaar may be worth checking out. I don't think I can give my seal of approval to the original variety, however in my opinion the Curry チキンカツ was delicious and I'd have no qualms getting it again. Judged strictly as a parma it was a little wanting, but judging it as its own thing it was a very tasty dish.
- Fresh toppings
- Not a parma
- A bit small