Don’t try this at home kids. The consumption of mass quantities is not for everyone. If you’ve had a mother-in-law from a culture where force-feeding is a form of love, and have seen Coneheads a few times, you may be ready for a visit to Palinka. Otherwise, think carefully about your future. Write a will before you leave for dinner.
Tuesday nights are discount nights, with a limited selection of main meals, including schnitzels and parmas, about half price. Last night a friend and I started with a flight of 6 palinka (fruit spirit) shots to share between 2, in other words a sip each of every one. The drinks list is as extensive and diverse as at Borscht Vodka and Tears on Chapel St.
We ordered crumbed mushrooms with beetroot dip as a shared entree. Normally $22.50, this was $10 and delicious. It’s difficult to say why they were so delicious. I assume there’s a fair amount of salt in the crumbs, but the dip was sharp and the perfect counterpoint. Then to the main courses.
At the full price of $29.50, a Palinka Transylvanian veal parma may seem expensive, but so keep in mind it is literally as long as a man’s forearm from wrist to elbow, easily 2-3 times the size of an average pub parma. It’s thus reasonable value full price and an incredible bargain at $17 on Tuesday night (palinka shots were drunk so the accuracy of the prices is not absolute).
My friend finished nearly half of it. The flavours were robust, with the normal simple tomato based sauce replaced with Hungarian lesco sauce (onion, tomato, capsicum and plenty of smoked paprika) under the ham and cheese, a surprising strong cheddar or similar. The Melbourne obsession with the parma (some bastard fusion of the traditional Italian eggplant parmigiana and an Austrian meat schnitzel) remains so named on the menu for the sake of familiarity, despite it not being authentic.
The equally large das monster Wiener schnitzel, normally $25.50, was $13. I enjoyed this with spenót főzelék (creamed spinach), which was wonderful and fortunately not quite as rich as that at the Hearty Hungarian in Balaclava. Dear reader, I finished my perfectly tender schnitzel and most of the remaining half of my friend’s parma, and I am still alive. Finishing the Napier hotel’s bogan burger is a facile achievement in comparison.
Not surprisingly we chose not to have dessert. Palinka was mostly full on this discount Tuesday night (since first advertising this special they have stopped opening on Monday nights). The atmosphere is unremarkable (I was not inspired by the battery operated fake candle on our table). The interior is a mishmash of tables and chairs, metal stools and sofas, and there’s also a covered outdoor area (the same as the former occupant Django Django). The ambiance may grow as the space becomes more lived in.
It’s not comparable with Borscht Vodka and Tears in terms of ambiance, but the drinks list is impressive and the food is very good. Order one schnitzel to share, and be aware that seemingly every plate comes with a generous serve of parsley infused mashed potato. This is not a place for vegans, and vegetarians have a choice of potatoes, mushrooms and salad. Unfortunately we shuffled out in a food coma and didn’t try the toilets or consider the accessibility.
If you like meat, and hearty serves, and drinks that seem to cause micro fluctuations in the space time continuum, Palinka is for you. Since the closure of Carlton’s Mutti’s, there’s not much competition in the area apart from Heart of Europe (the former Koliba) in Collingwood. Palinka is overall a brilliant addition to Brunswick St, so thanks to the operators for bringing a different cuisine to Fitzroy.