One of the clues to finding good value for money places near Universities is to follow the trail of students. With near empty wallets and stomachs, word quickly gets around where as to where the best mix of price and quality can be found. Located near Monash University's Caulfield campus, Derby Thai is a classic student eatery, nothing fancy, just simple well prepared food at good prices.
The three entrees tried - chicken satay sticks, vegetable curry puffs and Thai fish cakes - were all tasty starts to a meal. The satay sauce was sweet but not overpoweringly so, the curry puffs nicely crispy on the outside and moist in the middle, the fish cakes slightly chewy but not the ice hockey pucks you occasionally get. While there was nothing outstanding about any of them, the quality was above average, the serves generous and price good.
The Pad Thai had been recommended to me by a friend who used to live in the area. While it contained a number of vegetables which I doubt are part of the dish traditionally, including cabbage and carrot, it did avoid two of the most common traps: the fish sauce wasn't over used and the noodles weren't gluggy and clumpy. Tasty, a little sweet, nice ... but not outstanding.
The dish I liked the most was the seafood Thai rice. The rice was nicely soft and the vegetables crispy. But the most important aspect was the generous use of seafood for the price. Mid-sized prawns and calamari done two different ways were immediately obvious when the dish was placed on the table. Further digging through the rice uncovered scallops, baby octopus and even two green lipped mussels in the half shell. I have had similar dishes elsewhere which were far more stingy with the seafood but at twice the price.
The last main sampled was the chicken gang dang (red curry). Again generous with the ingredients but the curry sauce lacked any real heat or complexity. Not bad but a little disappointing after the surprisingly good fried rice.
A very solid student eatery, with entrees around $6 and mains $10-11. Its obviously not fine royal Thai cuisine and the heat and complexity of the spices has been toned down a long way. It does however provide generous serves of simple and tasty food. Not top of its class but a solid B+ student, with quick service, smiling staff and a somewhat noisy, crowded but friendly dining area.
Food - 7
Service - 7
Ambience - 6.5
Price - 8
4 Derby Road
Caulfield East VIC 3145
Tel: (03) 9571 1306