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


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…

Special Attempt - 'The Underdog'

[info] When? - 16th of June, 2011

Where? - The Underdog 16a Clapham Common South Side, London

Price? – £9 Parma £10 Asahi Buckets (4 stubbies) £5 for 2 games bogan bingo on Thursday nights!

Barry? - No

Website? - http://www.theunderdogbar.co.uk/

Reviewers – Stefo, Fridge[/info]

As I mentioned in previous reviews, a few weeks ago we lost two of our reviewers to the foggy shores of London town. We allowed them to leave the country on the promise that they would become roving reporters, sending us back parma reviews from across the pond when they found them, And they haven’t disappointed - I’ll let Reviewer Stefo take over as he sends us his report from The Underdog, London.

We have now been in London for nearly two weeks and we were yet to find a Parma on any pub menu! Desperately hoping to find one our hopes faded until by chance we were invited to Bogan Bingo on Thursday night at the Underdog by Runchy, one of Reviewer Fridges mates. So we got on the tube (which later turned out to be the Parma tube) and headed to Clapham Common.

Once getting off the tube we headed to the underdog which is about a 50m walk from the tube station. As we arrived there was a sea of tables all with bookings on them so bookings are essential for this one. We found our table, helped ourselves to a bucket of Asahi from the bar andmade ourselves comfortable. At this point in time I will send out a warning

….The underdog does offer table service for drinks but it will cost about £2 extra!

Upon sitting down we raised the menu to our eyes and there was only one thing I could read…. CHICKEN PARMAGANIA!

…The waitress came around and started at the opposite end of the table to me however within seconds she was up to me as the whole table of Aussies ordered Parma’s! There was a fair wait for our food but it was eased by the amount of gorgeous women that kept coming into view! By the time our Parma’s arrived, our jaws were well and truly touching the table.


It looked amazing! And with a healthy serving of curly fries I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth in! I started on the curly fries which were crisp tasty and very satisfying. I think they were also beer battered, but either way they were really good! Only one downside to the curly fries is that their roundness makes them prone to falling off your plate.

 I cut into my parma to find that it was quite thin and that the thickness I thought existed was actually more curly fries under my parma.

However the parma definitely wasn’t over crumbed and only had a couple of spots of nude schnitzel, it was fresh chicken and cooked very well. It didn’t exactly fill the plate but was very satisfying. The salad as we have noticed with most salads in this country was quite small and very stock standard with some rocket leaves, spinach and a dijonase dressing. 

The highlight of the night was yet to come however…. For any Aussie trvaelling to the motherland you simply MUST go to Bogan Bingo. Imagine every Bogan saying you can think of, combine it with two Bogan hosts, 2 games of Bingo, amazing prizes and unlimited laughs and you’ve got it!

Conversion rate: £10 = $15.35                       £5 = $7.67 £9= $13.81                           £2 = $3.07

I was shocked to see London town offer up such a tasty looking parma! those curly fries looked damn amazing didn’t they? I’m a little jealous I didn’t get to try them myself. Take note, Aussie parma makers! Curly fries are where its at!

Massive thanks to Reviewers Stefo & Fridge for taking the time, I hope you have all enjoyed this culinary vacation, we will be back next week with a Melbourne based review, so stay tuned! Also be sure to keep an eye on the Twitter for up to the minute information. Until then…

The search continues…

Special Attempt - 'The United States of America'

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 …

Rainforest Cafe (MGM Grand) on Urbanspoon