Attempt #107 - 'Chartreuse'

[info]

When? – 26/07/2012

Where? – Chartreuse. 332 Keilor Rd, Niddrie

Price? - $20

Website? - http://www.chartreusecafebar.com/

Reviewers – Fridge, Lee, Pat, Stefo[/info]

** Note ** This location has now closed

Living on Keilor road (well, in a sidestreet meters from it), I’m always saying to the wife “We don’t utilise Keilor road enough”. There’s so many shops, cafe’s and restaurants that I never even consider when the daily question of “Whats for dinner?” arises. The most I probably use K road for late night Maccas runs or pasta from the pizza place near Maccas.

We hadn’t done a local parma in a while so I figured it was time, I was going to finally utilize Keilor road. We have done a couple of parmas in the street with so/so success, so finding a good parma minutes from my front door would be a real bonus.

With the helpfulness of the tram tracker iPhone app, I was out the door and at Chartreuse in about 5 minutes flat, When we arrived (at 7) it was dead quiet, yet that quickly changed, as by the time our parmas hit the table the place was absolutely packed - hopefully that would be a good sign.

Once everyone arrived we scoped the menu and ordered our parmas and a round of beers from the very friendly and helpful staff.

First impressions were good - of the four parmas that hit the table mine was the smallest, and it was still big enough to fill the hole. It came out piping hot with plenty of napoli and cheese (no ham) the chicken was juicy and thick, the napoli was flavourful and the cheese was plentiful!

Our major criticism is with the crumbs - while not being thick the crumbs were a major detriment to the meal, they looked processed, they flaked away from the chicken and they didn’t add any flavour to the dish at all - Reviewer pat likened them to the crumbs you’d find on a chicken nugget. A slight negative for an overall great piece of bird.

Apologies, but a technical glitch means no ParmaCam this week! we are going old school with the cross section. Also, if you’d like me to bring back the cross section alongside the ParmaCam in future reviews, let me know (via Facebook or Twitter).

There were a heap of chips, cooked well and topped with chicken salt, a seldom used spice that really added to the chips flavour. We requested some tomato sauce and were brought a couple of sauce pots for dipping - A lovely touch.

The salad was standard. a very onion-heavy garden salad with carrot, lettuce, tomato and a thick balsamic dressing. Nothing bad, but not noteworthy.

For $20, I’d be back. It’s definitely the best parma We’ve had on Keilor road so far and worth checking out if you’re in the area - although I wouldn’t be traveling more than 10 minutes out of my way to give it a go.

Thats actually a cool rating technique … judge a parma by how far you’d be willing to travel to eat it. Chartreuse I would definitely give a rating of 10 minutes, good thing its close, I’ll definitely give it another shot.

Parma - 7.13
Chips - 6.38
Salad - 5.50
Value - 6.50
Total - 6.53

The search continues…

Attempt #106 - 'The Mitre Tavern'

[info]

When? – 19/07/2012

Where? – The Mitre Tavern. 5 Bank Pl, Melbourne CBD

Price? - $18.90

Website? - http://www.mitretavern.com.au/

Reviewers – Fridge, Lee, Matt, Nikki, Pat, Stefo[/info]

The Mitre Tavern is a parma that I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. I mean, It’s the first pub in Melbourne! That kind of nostalgia has gotta be worth massive points. We loaded up the parma bus and headed for the CBD.

After a little trouble finding a carpark, we made our way down Bank Pl to the Mitre. If you have yet to visit the Mitre it is certainly an odd sight - Nestled between highrises in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD is a tiny little two story house surrounded by hundreds of Melbournites in suits, all downing a few well earned post-work pots.

We ducked in through the doors and took our seats in the bistro downstairs (there is a much more lah-dee-dah steakhouse upstairs, but unfortunately there is no parma on the menu up there)

After settling in with a pint of Mountain Goat, we checked the menu -

When a pub puts its own name in the name of the parma it can either be a very good thing or a very bad one - On one hand it could mean that they are very extremely proud of their quality meal, yet on the other (more likely) hand, its a kiss of death. Much like when you see the word “Famous” on the menu before a parma.

One other thing we noticed was the lack of salad, It wasn’t until after we ordered that we noticed the ‘sides’ section on the back of the menu, the option to add a salad would cost us an extra $3, but seeing as we had already ordered, nobody partook.

Before too long our meals arrived in front of us.

The Schnitzel was quite wide, but unfortunately it was thin and processed, the crumbs were thick and there was more nudity on the schnitzel than on this painting on the wall -

The area under the cheese and ham was passable, although there was a major lack of napoli leaving the whole thing dry - It was the first time in 106 parmas that I’ve resorted to using the tomato sauce for more than just the chips, just to give the thing some moisture.

The above rundown has come off a bit harsh - it wasn’t terrible, But I was expecting a lot more from the first (and one of my favourite) pubs in Melbourne.

[youtube id="4zhrKTHOCeo" width="580" height="337"]

The chips were okay, passable and well cooked, however they were nothing special and just looked lonely on the plate without any salad. Two of the six parmas that came out had individual sauce pots on the plate (you know how I love my sauce pots) yet the other four had no sauce pots, and a squeeze bottle of sauce put on the table in front of us, when questioned about this the waitress said “I guess the chef just got lazy”.

I was reading a review of a fellow food blogger who goes by the name Juganauts (whom I also borrowed the above artwork photo from) and she put it perfectly …

If you have a minute, check out Juganaut’s Foodie Thoughts, its a great read, not parma exclusive, but they do come up fairly often.

Now, the salad. As mentioned before, It was nonexistent (unless you wanted to shell out an extra $3 for it). This is not the first time we’ve come across a salad free parma, and we have rules set in place for how its handled score-wise (known as the “you don’t win friends with salad” rule). A zero across the board would be too harsh, so instead they get a 5, which effectively nullifies the salad from affecting the score - however the lack of a salad is definitely reflected in the final Value score. Sound fair? good.

I love the Mitre Tavern, Its everything I love about a pub in a cosy little home squirreled away in the back alleys of the Melbourne CBD, which is why it kills me to say that I would not be back for another parma any time soon.

Such a disappointment but dry, processed chicken, thick crumbs, nude schnitzel and no salad make the Mitre a pub that I’ll only be returning to for a beer, not a meal… (and maybe some of those cheap lodgings afforded to seamen)

Yowza.

Parma - 5.17
Chips - 5
Salad - 5
Value - 4.67
Total - 5.00

The search continues…

Mitre Tavern Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Attempt #105 - 'The Snug Public House'

For the life of me, I can’t find a photo of the exterior of The Snug! I forgot to take one on the night, google street view was taken before the pub was open, and google image search gives me bupkis… so as a bonus here is a shot of the interior I stole off their facebook page

[info]

When? – 12/07/2012

Where? – The Snug Public House. 68 Sydney Rd. Brunswick

Price? - $16.00

Website? - http://www.facebook.com/thesnugpublichouse

Reviewers – Cale, Lee, Nikki, Pat, Stefo, Tony[/info]

**EDIT 30/04/15 - I stopped into the Snug last night and found the Parma is sadly no longer on the menu, Will archive this review for now, If you stop into the Snug and see that the parma has returned let me know!

If you read last week’s attempt, you’ll remember that we first tried to have a parma at a pub called The Snug on Sydney rd, before we wound up on Lygon Street at The Quarry, I didn’t realise just how snug The Snug was and neglected to make a reservation, which resulted in us not being able to get a table. One might think that would be the end of us trying to review The Snug, but over here at Parma Daze we are not so easily deterred.

This time we went prepared. I found a number, made the call on Thursday arvo, and (by the skin of my teeth) locked in a reservation. We arrived at the Snug, got ourselves some pints of Guinness and took a seat.

I’ve mentioned it before, but The Snug is a small pub. Small, but packed with character.

The whole place is cosy as hell and just bleeds genuine Irish, It makes the franchised-fake Irishness of the pub across the road seem that much more disingenuous. Amazingly friendly bar staff, a secret little beer garden out the back, and that little touch (which I have mentioned previously) that makes a good pub great, coat hooks.

We took our seats, perused the menu… and my heart sank. The parma that was on the menu only a week before had vanished without a trace. What were we to do? Where were we to go? (we were out on our fannieees! … ahem). It would have been rude for us to up and leave after making a booking at such a busy place, so we swallowed our pride and did something we haven’t done on a Thursday night in years - looked at other things on the menu. I had decided on the porterhouse, Reviewer Nikki was getting the stew in a loaf of bread, Cale and Stefo were getting the Fish & Chips, and you, dear reader, were very close to not getting a review this week.

Then the staff came to take our order, and I had to ask if we could get a parma.. “oh!” she said, and did a quick head count. “I think we can do that”, she hurried off to the kitchen to confirm with the chef and came back with the greatest news I have heard since Valve announced they were making Portal 2. We could have our parma!

I’m not sure why the parma was off the menu in the first place, but I assuming they were simply low on ingredients and weren’t sure they could fulfill a whole night’s worth of orders. If venturing to The Snug for a parma it might be something you want to confirm over the phone when making a reservation (and trust me, you need to make a reservation).

After a short wait our parmas arrived -

There are a lot of great things to say about The Snug parma, but it isn’t all good. I’ll start with the positives first.

The toppings were amazing, the ham was fresh and delicious, the napoli was fresh and plentiful without being overpowering and the cheese (while there were some minor nudity issues) was an interesting yet tasty blend that complimented the meal perfectly. The toppings were solid, the schnitzel however, was not.

Thin, processed and heart-shaped, the chicken was a let-down, it was by no means bad, but the whole meal was carried by its toppings, and the chicken itself became somewhat secondary. Such a shame as if this parma was built on a stronger foundation it would be solid gold.

[youtube id="FY5Udw76FdA" width="580" height="337"]

The chips were hand cut and reminiscent of what you would get at a fish & chip shop in shape. They were plentiful, well cooked and served with that golden ticket of chippery - An individual sauce pot on the plate. lovely.

The salad, served in a separate bowl, was a wonder. We haven’t seen this much attention paid to a salad in quite some time, and lord is that a breath of fresh air (I am beyond sick of typing ‘the salad was a standard garden salad’ every week).

A massive serving of lettuce, onion, cucumber, capsicum & tomato served with croutons and topped with grated cheese. Grated cheese on a salad? brilliance. Majorly filling, I struggled to finish the whole thing.

It didn’t look like a big meal when the food hit the table, however the parma at The Snug was damn filling, and clocking it at $16 it was rather easy on the wallet.

The Snug is a young pub, and it seems they are still feeling things out when it comes to their menu. All of the elements of their parma were fantastic, with the exception of the schnitzel itself.

If the owners of The Snug are reading this, you’re almost there! With just one tweak you could have one of the best parmas out there, and to be honest I would happily pay $5 or even $10 more for the meal I was delivered if it was served on a quality, un-processed chicken breast, and I’m pretty sure everyone else in attendance on the day agreed with me.

As always we are happy to re-review if the parma has changed significantly, and if you do take my advice be sure to let us know so we can come back & give it another go. Oh, and that Guinness was delicious.

Parma - 6.17
Chips - 6.58
Salad - 7.50
Value - 8.17
Total - 6.92

The search continues…

Snug Public House on Urbanspoon

Attempt #101 - 'The Union Club Hotel'

[info]

When? – 14/06/2012

Where? – The Union Club Hotel. 164 Gore St. Fitzroy

Price? - $19

Website? - http://www.unionclubhotel.com.au/

Reviewers – Lee, Nikki, Pat[/info]

With parma #100 quickly followed by the Queens Birthday public holiday and the sickie I took on Tuesday to make an extra long weekend *cough cough*, This weeks parma rolled around damn quickly!

The Parma Bus had been returned and attempt #100 was complete, but that didn’t mean we could rest on our laurels. The hunt for the perfect parma was still afoot, and with that in mind we set our sights on a pub that I had been suggested on a variety of occasions, The Union Club Hotel.

The Union club has the same ambiance as a lot of pubs in the area. A warm welcoming open fire, hallways criscrossing hallways, each leading to a different hidden drinking nook, and a very impressive outdoor drinking area (downstairs and upstairs), pool table in the corner and footy playing on the projector screen. A cosy pub that I fell in love with immediately and that I would be proud to call my local.

We took a seat by the fire and perused the menu, being a rather dark pub I struggled to get a good menu photo, so here is a grab from the website -

None of us were game to try the Mexican, the menu was a tad vague, was it only the napoli that was mexican? or the whole parma? We will find out next time I suppose.

We placed our order as the projector screen was rolled down and Thursday night footy kicked off. Pint in hand we kicked back and awaited the food’s arrival, Happy to sit for hours in front of the cosy fireplace.

But it didn’t take hours! shortly after ordering our parmas were trotted out of the kitchen…

The darkness of the pub meant I had to do a lot of post-brightening and white balancing of the photo, so I hope its okay (The ParmaCam this week is shocking, but I’ll get to that later)

The schnitzel was a thick, full chicken breast, crumbed to perfection in panko crumbs, and juicier than Scarlett Johannson (I haven’t used that joke in at least 80 reviews, I’m dusting it off for this one!)

Atop the parma was lashings of ham, not just a single slice as you will find with most parma’s, but layers of tasty ham that, surprisingly, didn’t overpower the dish.

There was plenty of cheese, extremely tasty and carrying a ton of flavour, and finally the Napoli sauce was truly fantastic - Never have I had napoli that tasted so fresh, as if it had been squeezed directly from the tomato onto my parma. An outstanding effort.

Major apologies for the quality of ParmaCam this week, I accidentally re-assigned focus to the bottom corner before filming and didn’t realise till after we finished eating. I’ll definitely be back and will re-shoot the ParmaCam next chance I get!

[youtube id="lV962Wns7sU" width="580" height="337"]

The chips were standard pub chips, unseasoned and boring - nothing bad, but compared to the awesome parma sitting next to it, A bit of a let-down

The garden salad was also so/so. Lettuce, onion, cucumber and cherry tomatoes. It was fresh and crisp, but lacked any “wow” factor!

The Union Club Hotel is a gorgeous little pub that serves up an amazing parma, which is unfortunately let down by lackluster chips and salad, If those were to improve it would definitely be a contender for the number #1 spot.

These days its not often that we find a parma (let alone a good one) that clocks in at less than $20, and at $19 on a non special night, the parma at the Union Club is great value. I’ll be heading back soon to re-shoot the ParmaCam and further investigate the mexican option, I will update this review when I do, so make sure you follow our Twitter to get an update when that happens.

In the meantime, head down to the Union Club and check out what they have on offer - you wont regret it!

Parma - 9.50
Chips - 5.50
Salad - 5.67
Value - 8.00
Total - 7.63

The search continues…

Union Club Hotel on Urbanspoon

Attempt #99 - 'Young & Jackson'

[info]

When? – 31/05/2012

Where? – Young & Jackson (Y&Js Cafe) Corner Swanston & Flinders St. Melbourne

Price? - $22.00

Website? - youngandjackson.com.au

Reviewers – Cale, Lee, Ness, Nikki, Pat, Tony[/info]

Young & Jackson is a pub that needs no introduction, I’d go as far as to say it’s Melbourne’s most well known pub - supporting this claim is the fact that I hinted on the Parma Daze Facebook page a couple of days ago that we were “going to that pub that everyone knows” … I thought it was cryptic, but commenters guessed the location in about 2 minutes flat. Surely a pub with such a high profile must have a quality parma? The signature dish for pubs all over this great country?

Situated in the corner of Flinders and Swanston St and adorned with an electronic billboard that puts Times Square to shame, Young & Jackson is a hard pub to miss, Inside you have lots of options, on the ground floor there is the main bar, the back bar and Y&J’s cafe which serves pub food and smaller meals. The next floor up has more of a cocktail lounge vibe, with couches and ‘Chloe’s Restaurant’ - a more lah-dee-dah affair that doesn’t have a parma on the menu. Finally on the floor above that there is the rooftop cider bar, an awesomely decked out spot that is a must for any Cider lover … but we’ll get there later, lets start with the parma.

Of all the rooms in Y&J’s, the cafe on the bottom floor was the only spot we could find a parma on the menu

We placed our order, grabbed a pint and took a seat. It’s worth noting that the largest table in the room was for 6 people, and they don’t take bookings in advance at the Y&J Cafe, so if you have a group of more than 6 you’ll either be splitting up or you’ll probably be missing out. They take advanced bookings at Chloe’s Restaurant upstairs, but (as mentioned earlier) there is no parma on the menu up there.

Before too long our parmas appeared -

The parma was … hmm .. well. Hard to describe. The schnitzel was thick enough, however the crumbs were quite thick and flaked off the chicken as soon as the knife pierced them. The quality of the crumbs made me suspect processed chicken, but the thickness of the chicken itself made me think otherwise. The final verdict was a processed schnitzel, but a high grade processed schnitzel.

The cheese only covered the spot where the ham sat, and some slippery ham led to slippery cheese, leaving a large part of the schnitzel nude to the world. The dominant flavour of the meal was probably the napoli, which had been loaded with pepper. There was a heap of cheese but it was all flavourless mozzarella (no sign of the parmesan mentioned on the menu) and I wouldn’t have known the ham was there if I couldn’t see it, added no flavour whatsoever.

[youtube id="707dURVOBkU" width="580" height="337"]

The chips were standard out-of-the-bag frozen pub chips, unsalted and bland. They had two saving graces - 1) there was a buttload of them, and 2) each plate came with an individual sauce pot, always points for a sauce pot.

The salad was, in a word, terrible. Garden salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, a couple of snow peas and bean sprouts… Lots of bean sprouts. There was no dressing to speak of other than a splash of oil and every mouthful was just an overload of bean sprouts - they dominated the whole salad and majorly overpowered it.

For one of the highest profile pubs in the state, the parma at Young & Jackson was a major disappointment. It seems they put all of their culinary efforts into Chloe’s Restaurant upstairs, and the pub meals down below have fallen by the wayside.

Post parma we headed upstairs to the cider bar - I’m a sucker for a good beer garden, and this is a fantastic spot, more ciders on tap than you can poke a stick at, great view of the city and plenty of room to move (granted it was 8 o’clock on a Thursday when we were there). To be fair, the whole pub is a pretty decent spot, I’ve had quite a few great nights there myself and their service slinging pints is hard to fault, which is why its such a disappointment that their parma was a let down … I expected more.

Parma - 4.83
Chips - 5.00
Salad - 3.25
Value - 4.00
Total - 4.39

The search continues…

Young & Jackson Hotel on Urbanspoon

Attempt #97 - 'The Mail Exchange Hotel'

[info]

When? – 17/05/12

Where? – The Mail Exchange Hotel, Corner Spencer & Bourke St. Melbourne

Price? - $21

Website? - http://www.mailexchangehotel.com.au/

Reviewers – Adam, Fridge, Lee, Nikki, Stefo, Tony[/info]

I hope you all appreciate the time I am taking out of Diablo 3 to write up this review. You’re lucky I’m kind enough to put important things aside and instead write about chicken parmas. The things I do for you.

We had a few options for venues this week, we had whittled the potential candidates down to three (the other two will remain nameless, as they are in the crosshairs for next week). To make the final descision I checked out the menus on the different pub’s websites. One thing caught my eye, and that thing was Bad Boy Chips…

What are bad boy chips? No idea. Curiosity got the best of me and we scheduled parma night at the Southern Cross station adjacent Mail Exchange Hotel.

The Mail Exchange is an impressive pub. Any pub that has escalators is automatically impressive in my book! The place is huge, with a TAB and pokies area that rivals Crown Casino on the right (actually the whole pub wouldn’t look out of place if it were a level of Crown), Bistro and lounge area, complete with bookshelf filled with old books on the left, and a massive standing/drinking area in the middle. A lot of money has been sunk into the refurbishment of this place and it definitely shows.

We moved into the bistro, had a quick garlic bread while awaiting the rest of the review team, then once everyone arrived we ordered our parmas - we were asked specifically if we wanted salad with it, we all said yes (and checked the bill afterwards, there is no extra charge for the salad).

I’ll get to the Bad Boy Chips in a minute, first the parma. It was real, unprocessed chicken breast, thick and juicy - unfortunately mine was a little cold by the time it made it to the table. Well, “cold” is a very strong term - it wasn’t hot. it had obviously been sitting for a bit. There was plenty of topping on the schnitzel and the trio (ham, cheese and napoli) all carried a great flavour, my only other complaint would be that the crumbing on the bottom of the parma was a bit soggy - a personal preference really, sometimes a bit of sog is benificial.

[youtube id="MEsrnseqVhU" width="580" height="337"]

Now, to the bad boy chips. In short, they were amazing. Massively thick cut chips, in beer batter. Hot, perfectly crispy on the outside and so impossibly light and fluffy on the inside it was like you were eating two different chips. My only (minor) criticism would be that they weren’t seasoned very well, however a salt shaker on the table made short work of that issue. A triumph of the chip world, and possibly the best we have had on our search so far (if only they came with a dipping sauce, some garlic aoli would be perfection)

The garden salad was served in a separate bowl, which is always a plus. It contained lettuce, onion, cucumber, capsicum and tomato with a healthy splash of balsamic dressing. As far as garden salads go, it was great. I just wish pubs would realise that there are other salads that go so well with a parma (potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw etc)

Rose Tattoo sang “I’m a bad boy for love” well I’m a bad boy for bad boy chips, A slightly above average parma was saved by a truly amazing side that I would definitely be back for. Maybe Angry Anderson wouldn’t be so angry if he got some of those bad boys in him, Then he’d just be Satisfied Anderson.

As for the Mail Exchange, it was a decent pub - the staff were friendly and eager to help and if you don’t mind some really obtrusive pokies then its a great venue. If I had to find fault I would say that the beer selection leaves something to be desired (standard big brewery selection, nothing in the way of microbrews). However I would definitely be back, if just for a bowl of bad boys and a pint.

Parma - 6.50
Chips - 9.00
Salad - 7.08
Value - 6.83
Total - 7.18

The search continues…

Mail Exchange Hotel on Urbanspoon

Attempt #96 - 'Three Crowns Hotel'

[info]

When? – 10/05/2012

Where? – Three Crowns Hotel. 365 Victoria St, West Melbourne

Price? - $17 (for chicken, $18.50 for veal)

Website? - http://www.facebook.com/threecrownshotel

Reviewers – Fridge, Lee, Nikki, Stefo, Tony[/info]

This review is now out of date, we revisited the Three Crowns in june 2015, Click here to read the updated review!

I may have mentioned it before, but one of my favourite spots in Melbourne to grab a drink is Rrose bar, in Errol St. North Melbourne (or is it West Melbourne? I’m never too sure which is which) It’s a cozy little pub with some of the best cocktails in the city.

Unfortunately, the food at Rrose is strictly tapas, so they couldn’t help us on the search for Melbourne’s best parma, but on the multiple times I have staggered out of the door in the wee hours of the morning my eyes have fallen on the Three Crowns Hotel. Having never really given it a go (as an establishment for drinking or eating) I decided that parma number #96 was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

We loaded up the parma bus and headed to the Three Crowns, which (according to the Internet) is most definitely in West Melbourne.

The front bar of three crowns is damn cosy and seemingly recently renovated, a great selection of beers both on tap and in bottle make this a very inviting spot to stop in for a pint. We moved through the main bar to the dining area which was also very aesthetically pleasing, stopping to have a glance at the adjoined beer garden, which while being a tad small would make a great spot to enjoy a brew on a warm sunday arvo.

I couldn’t find a menu for Three Crowns before we left, and took a punt that they actually had a parma available - punt paid off and parma was on the menu -

A couple of choices - Chicken or Veal, we have yet to review a veal parma, so chicken is the standard. Not that we have anything against veal, Meat is murder. tasty, tasty murder.

The second option was ‘Chunky chips and salad’ or veggies and mash, Reviewer Nikki went for the latter while the other four of us opted for the chunky chips. I like my chips like I like my women - Chunky, spicy and next to a parma.

There was a bit of a wait at the table before we were served, and a decent wait before the parmas arrived -

When the parma hit the table it looked fresh and delicious, but looks can be deceiving. First of all the whole meal was very small, a small island of food in an ocean of porcelain. There was a bit of curly ham atop the parma which exposed a a fair bit of nude schnitz underneath, and revealed a few burnt patches in contrast to the non-burnt parts of the schnitzel that looked soggy and undercooked.

The chicken itself was fresh and unprocessed, however it didn’t carry any flavour - the whole parma (chicken, crumbs, ham and cheese) was rather bland - with the exception of the napoli sauce, which seemed to be the only part of the dish that hid the ashen taste of the burnt patches of the schnitzel

[youtube id="7lKGDlG2Rl8" width="580" height="337"]

The “chunky chips” were a bit of a disappointment, as they were just standard pub chips, nothing standout at all and a very small serving, gone in minutes.

The salad (lettuce, carrot, cucumber, sprouts & tomato with a creamy dressing) was actually pretty tasty, but much like the chips and parma, was in far too small of a serving to register as anything special.

It was a small parma, plain and simple - normally the ParmaCam runs for about 13 - 14 minutes while we eat, and I speed that up 1000% in post to give it a reasonable running time of about a minute and a half. This week, however, I only had to speed up the footage 500% to get the same minute and a half running time.

The Three Crowns hotel is a beautifully renovated pub, and some of the other meals I saw coming out of the kitchen looked great but I would give the parma a miss. It has the elements of a great dish with a good quality, unprocessed bird, however something is being lost in translation from chicken to parma.

They run a $15 parma night on Friday which would make the small serving size a tad easier to swallow, however in an area like West Melbourne with so many great parmas nearby  (here, here and here for example) It simply just doesn’t cut it.

Parma - 4.50
Chips - 4.20
Salad - 4.30
Value - 4.60
Total - 4.42

The search continues…

Attempt #92 - 'The Mint'

[info]

When? – 12/04/2012

Where? – The Mint. Corner William & LaTrobe St, Melbourne

Price? - $19.90

Website? - http://www.themint.com.au

Reviewers – Adam, Ben, Brendan, Cale, Carly, Emma, Lee, Matt, Ness, Nikki, Pat, Stefo & Tyson.[/info]

The parma at The Mint has been a point of contention in many discussions I have had on the topic of chicken parmigianas, A typical conversation on the topic going something like this -

*If my wife is reading this, replace “I’ll get my coat!” with “Hell no you crazy skank!”

… you get the idea. A lot of people say its great, but an equal amount say its terrible, so for parma #92 it was time to see if we could put an end to the madness, we loaded up the parma bus and headed to The Mint.

When we first arrived we sat out in the beautiful beer garden while we awaited the teams arrival - the beer garden was spacious while remaining cosy, with plenty of seating and, despite being meters away from Flagstaff Station, secluded enough to feel like a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Once everyone arrived we took our reserved table inside - it was quiet so there was plenty of room, but I could definitely see this small room packing out very quickly on regular nights. We ordered our meals and were presented with a couple of bowls of olives to tide us over - a nice touch. I had a photo of the olives but by the time I took it the napkin surrounding the bowl was already spotted with used olive pits, kinda gross.

For those venturing down, be aware that the kitchen closes at 8, so get in early if you want a feed!

We had a big group with us, and the friendly staff were more than happy to accommodate when we turned up with a couple more than we had booked for. About 3/4s of a pint after ordering our parmas appeared out of the kitchen.

The chicken breast, while looking smallish on the plate, was massively thick and juicy, fresh pure unprocessed breast that rivaled that of my friend Scarlett from our conversation above. The crumbing was standard, with some minor nudity issues on mine (although I seemed to be alone in that, luck of the draw I guess). The slice of ham complimented the meal perfectly and the napoli was fresh, well spiced and tasty (although a little thick, bordering on tomato paste)

A major drawback is that many of the team (including myself) reported a fair bit of burn on the bottom of our schnitzels, some more prevalent than others, but once again, this was luck of the draw

[youtube id="pD58FlSlwh0" width="580" height="337"]

The chips were well cooked, both well seasoned and sprinkled with herbs, giving them a unique flavour that we haven’t encountered before.

The salad, despite being a standard garden salad of Lettuce, onion, capsicum, cucumber & mustard seeds, was chock full of flavour with a tangy dressing that complimented the dish very well.

Much like what we had heard previous to visiting The Mint, opinion on the parma among our group was also split - some loved it and had no complaints, others weren’t as easy to please - as you’ll see by the quotes below…

Luckily nobody copped a fork in the eye

I’m a little stumped with how to finish up this review. The Mint has all the ingredients for a fantastic parma - the breast is the pinnacle of quality and all the ingredients are top notch, however it just comes off as a tad underwhelming. The burnt bases were definitely a turn off, but like I said, maybe we just got a bad batch.

Definitely one worth checking out however, especially if you’re out and about on $12 parma Tuesdays. Definitely one to remember, even if just to stop in for a beer in a great location and beer garden thats in mint condition.

(see what I did there?)

Parma - 6.54
Chips - 6.58
Salad - 7.15
Value - 6.85
Total - 6.73

The Mint Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Special Attempt - 'The United States of America # 2'

‘Murica

Those who remember my last visit to the land up-over will recall that pickings were rather slim, the two parmas I tried were god awful not so great, and all they really accomplished was making want to jump on the next flying kangaroo back home and sink my teeth into some quality parmage.

A year and a half later wedding bells were ringing and I (with my brand new wife) was hopping a plane back to the land of the free and the home of the cheeseburger, spending our honeymoon trying to track down the best parma the USA had to offer (well, at this point I’d settle for decent, its all about expectation management).

Lets do it…

Lets start with Leonardo’s, as it was the first parma of the trip it kinda makes sense to start there.

Our first stop on our trip was to Hawaii, to the Island of Oahu and Turtle Bay Resort - Many of you would know Turtle Bay Resort as the place where the movie ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ was shot, to be honest that is why we picked it, but before we left I made sure to check the resorts website and make sure a parma was available.

Rather than our usual ‘we decided where to go, loaded up the parma bus and headed to the pub’ system, this parma was more of a ‘we stopped drinking cocktails at the bar and walked ten meters to the restaurant’ affair, which we did. On arriving at Leonardo’s, something from the menu filled me with hope…

It was actually called a Chicken Parmigiana. Literally every other time I’ve had a parma in the states it has been referred to as a “Chicken Parmesan”, Leonardo’s menu got it right, could it be good?! had this slight change of spelling redeemed American parmas?…

Nah… it was shit.

Do I really need to explain more than the picture shows? The schnitzel was tiny and overcooked to the point of being burnt, there was barely any cheese and the tomato soup masquerading as napoli took over everything else.

Going low tech with this attempt as I didn’t have the ParmaCam tripod with me on the trip, back to the old cross section!

The ‘salad’ was a bunch of over-boiled vegetables tossed in oil that just tasted like oil, and, as per usual with American parmas, there were no chips and instead we had a plate of gnocchi with cream sauce - surprisingly this was the nicest part of the dish, and if I ever found myself in Leonardo’s again, I would probably order a plate of the gnocchi on its own.

Interesting thing about Hawaiian hamburgers - rather than serving them with chips (or ‘fries’) they are served with chips (as in potato chips… crisps) A change that I thought was odd at first, but after trying I am all for, its amazing how well chips work with a hamburger and its a change I have adopted and will bring back to future Melbourne-based BBQs.

After the parma I did this with our room’s daily fruit delivery.

My wife rolled her eyes, I giggled like a schoolgirl.

Next up!

Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Ala Moana Shopping Center, Honolulu

On our last day in Hawaii we had the unfortunate task of having to fill a day in Honolulu after checking out of the hotel, as our flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11pm that night (first world problems, I know).

We wound up at Ala Moana Shopping Center - a massive complex devoted to coaxing greenbacks out of your wallet - and coax it did, after a few hours indulging in consumerism we were well and truly shopped out, so in an effort to escape the madness of the shopping mall and to kill a few hours, we found what looked like a decent Italian restaurant - And in America where there’s an Italian restaurant, there’s a parma.

We took our seats and checked the menu -

Success! lets just hope it was better than the last. we got some bread with olive oil and balsamic as a starter then waited the arrival of our parma, I’ve gotta say, expectations were low…

Surprisingly … it was good! Not one, but three separate parmas graced our plate, topped with two types of cheese and cherry tomatoes - the napoli, while on the plate and not on the parma itself, was tasty (albeit a tad oily) and the roasted cherry tomatoes added a sweetness to the dish that was a welcome addition. As usual, no chips or salad, but a bowl of pasta on the side did the job quite well.

We left Romano’s both full and happy. There was hope for America yet!

We left the shopping center and headed to the Airport, where we set up camp in the departure terminal for a few hours before boarding a plane to the bright lights of Las Vegas.

The first few days of Vegas were relatively parma-free, we were in the land of the all you can eat buffet and erection-inducing hot dogs.

Seriously… look at this thing.

Bacon chilli cheese dog with tomatoes, onions, ketchup and mustard … with onion rings. 

However a few days in I was getting a familiar hankering, so we tracked down another Italian restaurant, this time it was “Maggiano’s”.

Once again we took our seats and checked the menu. The parma was not only on the menu, it was listed as one of the “Chef’s Favourites”. Bonus.

Over there they call napoli ‘Marinara’  for some reason… don’t worry, there was no seafood to be found!

We ordered our parmas, and on the recommendation of our server we tried a starter that was basically a coronary is a bowl - it was a pot of melted cheese, topped with Jalapeños, pepperoni and chilli, served with a side of crispy bread for dipping. It was amazing, and totally distracted us during the wait, so before I knew it our parmas were in front of us.

Once again we were presented with multiple schnitzels, and although only two this time. Not quite as good as the parmas at Romano’s, the Maggiano’s parma was at least better than the first. The schnitzel was well cooked and fresh, there was a little nudity but the napoli was tasty.

You will have noticed from the photo, however, that Maggiano’s needs to work on their plating up skills - it didn’t look attractive at all. However I’d prefer a parma that looked like shit and tasted great to a parma that looked fantastic yet tasted like a crumbed and fried monkey turd.

No chips or salad, and the pasta wasn’t great at all - I have a sneaking suspicion that Maggiano’s have one giant pot of spaghetti on the boil all day, taking from it as they need too, as the pasta tasted like overcooked mush with the same napoli as the parma spooned over the top.

Alas, we have come to the end of our adventure through the world of American parmas, The first one we tried was definitely the worst, the second was the best, and the third was the one with the hairy chest not bad, but not great. The cheese fondue was amazing though, worth the trip alone.

The honeymoon was over far too quickly, luckily I could put solace that I was flying back into Melbourne - the city that serves up the most amazing chicken parmigianas on the planet and if anything it added fuel to the fire of our mission to find this fair city’s very best.

The search continues…

Attempt #91 - 'The Royal Standard Hotel'

[info]

When? – 05/04/2012

Where? – The Royal Standard Hotel, 333 William St. West Melbourne

Price? - Varies - See review for more details.

Website? - http://www.royalstandardhotel.com.au/

Reviewers – Adam, Ben, Cale, Emma, Janet, Lee, Ness, Nikki, Pat & Stefo[/info]

When I first heard of The Royal Standard I was told it was a “country pub in the middle of Melbourne”. I love country pubs, I love Melbourne, I was sold.

We arrived at the fairly quiet pub, hidden just behind the Queen Victoria Market, and from what I could tell the description was totally accurate - The Royal Standard has the feel of a down to earth country pub down pat, right down to the “Dress up Fridays” and occasional meat tray raffle.

We took our seat and placed our orders at the bar, now contrary to the menu listed on the website, there are a few options for parma, which were:

“Regular” parma - $16

“Large” parma (with wedges) $20

Add Bacon to either - extra $4

For completeness sake we split the order, some went the regular, some went the large, and some went either the regular with bacon or the large with bacon. Myself, I went for the large, with no bacon (a decision I immediately regretted - everything on earth tastes better with bacon, and I believe the inventor of the Wake n’ Bacon deserves a nobel prize).

After a bit of a wait (understandable, as it was a big group this week) the different parmigianas started making their way out of the kitchen…

My “Large” parma

A “Regular”

With tears welling up in my eyes as I mourned my mistake in not ordering bacon, I tucked in. Not too bad, The chicken was unprocessed and fresh and the napoli was fresh, plentiful and flavourful (especially in comparison to last weeks attempt). The crumbs weren’t overdone, home made and well herbed. There was a lot of cheese. And by a lot I mean enough to make a Swiss man moist in his pantaloons.

This was my opinion of the parma, however others around the table weren’t as kind, some reported it as dry, others as boring, one fact seems irrefutable though - everyone who had bacon said it was fantastic.

Cue ParmaCam!

[youtube id="8aobiBJSqEs" width="580" height="337"]

90% of the people around the table had wedges, everyone loves wedges (much like dune buggies). Some sour cream would’be been nice but they served their purpose perfectly.

The garden salad of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, onion, capsicum, cucumber & balsamic was pretty standard, nothing to write home about, my only gripe would be the ingredients were diced a little too finely, it was hard to get ahold of anything with my fork (as you’ll see in the closing minutes of the ParmaCam, I had to resort to the ‘spooning’ tactic as opposed to using the fork as a fork, and lets face it, nobody prefers spooning to forking.

Enough of my jibber-jabber! other people want to talk -

I would definitely go back to the Royal Standard, for a meal or just a beer - I love the feel of a country pub, and the whole place carries that vibe perfectly - the staff were friendly, the food was down to earth and the beer was cold. Definitely gonna check in again.

As for the parma the general consensus seemed to be go bacon or go home, ‘twas a standard parma that didn’t do much to “wow” anyone on its own, and needs that little kick to get it over the line that only bacon can provide - do yourself a favour, shell out the extra $4 for a ticket to flavour country, you wont regret it.

Parma - 6.30
Chips - 7.40
Salad - 4.68
Value - 5.70
Total - 6.08

The search continues…

Royal Standard Hotel on Urbanspoon

Attempt #90 - 'The Anglers Tavern'

[info]

When? – 28/03/2012

Where? – The Anglers Tavern, 2 Raleigh Rd. Maribyrnong

Price? - $21.50

Website? - http://www.anglers-tavern.com.au/

Reviewers – Lee, Nikki[/info]

Growing up in the area The Anglers was always a summer favourite of mine. There was no better way to spend a Sunday than with a couple of pints relaxing by the river watching the world go by. Despite the great atmosphere the food at the Anglers was never something to be proud of, so when it came up on the rotation of pubs to visit in search for a Melbourne’s best parma I have to be honest and say I didn’t have high hopes.

We arrived to a very quiet bar on Thursday night, as usual the location was fantastic (it’s really rare for a pub to change its location, wreaks havoc with the foundations). Absolutely massive beer garden perched on the banks of the Maribyrnong River, we ordered our meals and took a seat outside in the sun.

As I mentioned the pub was quiet, and it was a small group this week, so the parmigianas were out of the kitchen in under ten minutes…

Would you look at this behemoth?!

Short of our special attempts at The Albion, this would have to be the biggest parma we have come across - absolutely massive, and on closer inspection revealed to be two chicken breasts that would stand alone on the plate as decent parmas. But how did it taste?

Not great.

Don’t get me wrong, the chicken was unprocessed and fresh, they weren’t too heavy on the crumbs and there was heaps of cheese, but the whole thing just carried no flavour.

We coined the term “Big Parma Syndrome” (Or BPS) during our review of The Central Lion, and this parma is a prime example. The slice of ham added some flavour, however the sheer size of the parma meant that a single slice of ham barely covered 30% of its surface area, leaving a majority of the parma ham-less. Like trying to cover Kim Kardashian’s arse with a hand towel.

The saving grace for this chicken came towards my last few bites, and it was then I put my finger on why this parma had no flavour - the Napoli. My last three bites of parma tasted fantastic, as the action of cutting the parma had pushed what little napoli there was to one side of the chicken and had left a little treasure trove of great tasting parmage - it was a shame that by the time I got to those final bits I was so full I felt as if I was going to explode like the guy in “Meaning of Life”.

fuck off I’m full.

[youtube id="MID1nT5_m_Q" width="580" height="337"]

The chips were … chips. Standard pub chips, unfortunately due to the parma taking up the whole god-damned plate they were rendered a soggy mess by the time I got to them

The salad was a disappointment, truly there as an afterthought. A stack of lettuce with a slice of furry tomato, some cucumber and a single sliver of onion.

Once when Winston Churchill was asked how dry he liked his martini, he responded “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.” - I think the chef at the Anglers had the same approach with the salad dressing, perhaps he glanced at it across the room while he was preparing the salad, however it was nowhere on the plate we received.

If you’re in the mood for a big feed then The Anglers is the parma for you, unfortunately, as we have discovered in the past - bigger is not always better (At least thats what the wife tells me, although I get the feeling she is just being kind).

If they took the time to add a bit of flair to the meal, dish out an appropriate amount of napoli & ham for the size of the bird they are putting on the plate, then they would definitely be a contender - Until then I’ll be content with sitting in the beer garden and watching the water with a pint in hand, but I doubt I’ll be trying the parma again any time soon.

Parma - 6.25
Chips - 4.5
Salad - 2
Value - 6.25
Total - 5.05

Anglers Tavern on Urbanspoon

Attempt #89 - 'Mrs. Parma's: Redux'

[info]

When? – 22/03/2012

Where? – Mrs. Parma’s, 25 Little Bourke St, Melbourne

Price? - $23.50 for Chicken, $25 for Weiner Schnitzel, $19 for Eggplant

Website? - http://www.mrsparmas.com.au

Reviewers – Alek, Emma, Lee, Matt, Nikki, Ness, Stefo[/info]

 

Over two years ago, with the loss of The Prince of Wales Hotel still fresh in our minds, a group of mates headed out for a Wednesday night parma to … well, you all know the story by now.

But in March 2010 we headed to Mrs. Parma’s for our very first attempt, which you can read all about here. Looking back it was a bit of a shemozzle - We had booked a table for at least twenty people and only about fifteen turned up, we didn’t even decide to make a website until after parma beers and to be completely honest the photo of the parma used in the article was stolen from google image search.

Had our tastes changed? had our standards changed? had 87 parmas between then and now made us so sick of chicken and cheese the sight of which would make us want to vomit? Only time would tell. It was time to do Mrs. Parma’s justice - We have had many emails from readers asking to give it another chance, so another chance we gave it. We loaded up the Parma Bus, got her up to 88 miles per hour and headed back in time two years, Back… To Mrs. Parma’s.

To anyone planning on visiting Mrs. Parmas, be aware - it’s a very busy establishment, I only managed to secure our 7pm booking on the proviso that we would be off the table by 9, and even at 7pm the place was already at capacity, both at the tables and a large crowd at the bar scrambling to get a taste of the many microbrews on tap. One thing Mrs. Parma’s gets points for is its constantly rotating beer selection - there’s always something new to try for lovers of a good brew.

We took our seats and perused the menu, as expected we had a big choice ahead of us - go with a novelty parma or stick with the original? Opinion was split around the table, but to get a good idea of what was available at Mrs Parma’s we split it up, Reviewers Stefo, Nikki, Matt & Alek went original, Ness decided on the Roasted Pumpkin, Emma with the Calabrese and I stuck with the parma I had my first time around … The Mexican.

There were plenty of other choices on the menu, including the option to have any of the parmas on either Chicken, Eggplant or Wiener Schnitzel…

Heh… Weiner…

It was a decent wait before our parmas came out of the kitchen, nothing major but there was definitely a few questioning glances towards the kitchen door before our food started to file out, possibly due to the extreme business of the place … however for a restaurant that basically exclusively serves parmas, you’d think a pretty speedy construction line would be in place, but I digress. Back to the parmas.

The Original -

The Mexican -

The Calabrese -

Okay I’ve got to break this down, And be aware that I’ll be focussing on the Mexican parma for a majority of this description.

The schnitzel was a decent size, real, quality chicken breast but pounded relatively thin, the crumbing was inoffensive, it was well cooked and there was good cheese coverage - these all sound like positives, however before I get to the mexican topping I will say that so far every ingredient listed just tasted kind of bland - everything was present, but absolultely nothing wow’ed me. So far the Mrs. Parma’s parma was extremely Disney - A perfectly mildly entertaining meal, but carefully designed not to be offensive to anyone.

The mexican toppings saved this parma for me, The guacamole, salsa and sour cream worked great together, and the jalapenos gave it the extra kick that turned it into a rather enjoyable parma, however a good parma shouldn’t need novelty toppings to make it good, it should be able to support itself on its own merits and the novelty toppings be considered a bonus. The opinions of those around the table who ordered the Original parma weren’t as kind as mine, without the novelty toppings their chicken was, while serving its purpose as a foodstuff, devoid of any substance. To throw the worlds most obscure movie reference at you, like in “The Langoliers” when they eat the food from the past, it carried no flavour, no substance … no life.

And then the guy that played Balki Bartokomous got eaten by a floaty cannonball with teeth.

You’re not running… you’re scampering.

But I digress… To the ParmaCam!

[youtube id="rIL7H-KMJNw" width="580" height="337"]

Next up were the chips -

Now if you remember the last Mrs. Parma’s review, you’ll remember that we were a tad miffed that between the 15 reviewers at the table we only got three bowls of chips and three bowls of salad. Since I made that complaint a lot of the emails I have received from readers have claimed that, although we only got three bowls of chips, that the bowls were in fact bottomless and staff should have swapped them over for fresh bowls for us. I was very interested to put this to the test, so when our two bowls of chips between seven parmas arrived we were sure to dig in quickly and leave an empty bowl, but more on that later.

But were they good? Not too shabby!, well cooked and spiced up with a bit of chicken salt they were perfectly good chips, however the whole act of sharing two bowls of chips between seven people is just awkward. Sure we’re all friends, but putting communal chips brings up all sorts of social questions - are fingers okay? What if I take too many and don’t leave enough for everyone else? who gets the last chip? can I put sauce on them?

To keep the obscure movie references going I felt like I was in a cruel “Cube“-like social experiment where one wrong move could get my face burned off with acid.

With two empty bowls on the table a staff member came around to clean up one of the empty plates left by a particularly hungry member of our group, others were still tucking into their parmas and could quite easily have needed more chips and salad… but no chips or salad came.

If these chips are truly “bottomless” then I shouldn’t have to ask for a refill, they should be on top of it as the last chip leaves the bowl. Chalk it up to either bad service or that the “bottomless chip bowl” was just a legend, but two bowls of chips between seven people is simply not good enough. Especially when I am paying $23.50 for the privilege

Now to the Salad -

Surprisingly, the salad was damn tasty, a simple yet understated garden salad of lettuce, onion and tomato with plenty of delicious dressing. However it was plagued with the exact same issue as the chips, the bowl was empty in minutes yet no refill ever came, sounding like a broken record here, but for $23.50 its just not good enough, especially when I can look over a table and see a party of two enjoying bowls of chips & salad the same size as the one that I have to split with three and a half people for the same price. I simply don’t think thats fair.

After we finished up our meal we kind of all sat around in stunned silence, the parma had both equal good points and bad, it was like flipping a coin and have it land on its side edge.

The schnitzel was great quality chicken, but the toppings were bland. Both the chips and the salad were quite nice, however the awkwardness of having to share left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth, If the stars had aligned I truly wouldn’t have been surprised if the score came out as an even 5.00. However that wasn’t the case, and the total came out to be 5.85, perhaps the fact that the Mrs. Parma’s logo is literally a pair of giant breasts tipped the scales in their favour.

In the end I am glad we revisited Mrs. Parma’s, with 87 parmas in between I think its pretty safe to say our tastes have matured, and it definitely scored better than the first time we visited. I just wish we could’ve ended up with a result that wasn’t so damn neutral. I guess in the end the big question is … is it good?

All I know is my gut says “Maybe”.

Parma - 6.33
Chips - 4.50
Salad - 7.00
Value - 5.08
Total - 5.85

The search continues…

Mrs Parma's on Urbanspoon

Click here to read about our first visit to Mrs. Parma’s (and our first parma!) Here for Faceybooks and Here for the Tweeter