One of the sad, sad facts of life, is that so many people will go through it not having experienced the glory that is the "parma". I call it a life half lived. If you are not one of my Australian readers, you probably don't even know what a "parma" is, right? Allow me to show you the light.
|The original parma at Mrs Parma's|
This, my friends, is the parma - the reliable staple of Australian pub cuisine. It's a large, hammered out chicken breast, fried in crispy bread crumbs, then oven baked with a topping of a tomato sauce and loads of oozy mozzarella cheese. It's almost not a parma if it's not served with a tonne of thick cut chips and a sprinkling of salad for your conscience.
Originally a Southern Italian dish, the chicken parmigiana (or parmagiana di malanzane) is something you take for granted until you leave Australia, find yourself in the dark depths of a hangover and discover to your desperation that it's almost impossible to get your fix elsewhere. No mere princessy chicken schnitzel will cut it when you want the big mama. So it can only be a good thing that, back in Melbourne's city centre, some kindred spirits have set up Mrs Parma's - possibly the first ever restaurant to specialise in parmigianas and beer. What's not to love?
The surrounds may be plain, but these people take pride in their parmas. Size IS important, and it's not lacking here. They take a 230g chicken breast and pound it out to a medium thickness for even cooking, and add quality ingredients like a tasty napoli sauce. I would have preferred it a little thicker, but the piece of chicken was excellent and extra points for covering the entire plate. You can choose from a menu of different parmas - like the Aussie (add bacon, beetroot and fried egg), the Mexican (add tomato salsa, sour cream, guacamole and jalapeños) or Parma'geddon (the really hot one). But I'm a traditionalist when it comes to my parmas and my creme brûlées - nothing will ever beat the original.
Chip placement is also crucial and a thing of debate in Australia, usually after drinking one or two of the cold beers that traditionally accompany it. Should the chips be placed under the parma to maximise the volume of them and give the full effect of a plate heaving with calorific goodness, or should the chips be placed to the side to prevent sogginess?
Mrs Parma's fall firmly on the side of the latter - they them up in their own generous side bowl. A simple but revolutionary adjustment to the traditional parma serving method.
They also offer gluten free parmas, and veal ($25) and or eggplant ($19) options to replace the chicken ($23). If you must. These prices include a side of chips and salad - and enough parma to fill your plate and possibly justify a doggy bag home (although I ate all mine and licked the plate).