495 Burke Rd
Camberwell VIC 3124
+61 3 9822 7322
My parents wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday on Sunday night. As sweet as they are and as good as their intentions were, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when they suggested La Porchetta in Greensborough and Supper Inn as two possible dining venues. My mum might be able to whip up some pretty decent Indonesian fare and knows a thing or two about good food but she’s utterly hopeless when it comes to restaurants. To her, ‘good’ Italian food is the Anglo-Italian crap they serve at La Porchies and although I love Supper Inn dearly, I’m so over Chinese food (at least for now). Hence, I suggested something more adventurous for my dinner. My suggestions ranged from Indian to Korean to Greek to Ethiopian until finally, my parents settled on one cuisine: Thai.
Yes, good old bloody Thai food. Adventurous it is not (at least not to the suburban Aussie lexicon) but the fact that we never have Thai food (“too much like Indonesian food” reckons my mum – I disagree) means that my family were taking a walk on the wild side when we rocked up to our 8pm booking at Rama Thai, a restaurant that was recommended by some family friends. For some reason, the place was dead-quiet when we walked in – no tables were occupied. I was initially nervous upon seeing this but throughout the course of our meal, there was a steady stream of walk-ins picking up their take away orders as well as a few sit-ins which reassured me a little bit.
We ordered a whole bunch of dishes, all of which arrived very quickly. Although we had an unlimited supply of jasmine rice (@$2.50 per head), my brother insisted of ordering roti ($3.50). For some reason, we thought that it was going to come with some sort of curry or gravy but instead it came out plain. Boo.
Our only entree was a serving of por pia which are basically Thai spring rolls ($7.90). I was expecting them to taste similar to the awesome fried poh pia (Malaysian spring rolls) which are churned out effortlessly at the not-so-creatively named Carlton Chinese Noodle Cafe but they tasted nothing like them. Yes, these ones also had a pork filling and yes, they also contained bean shoots, cabbage and other subsidiary vegetables but they were not at all tasty.
If the por pia were disappointing, then thank Rama for the green curry chicken ($14.90). I wasn’t expecting much from this dish but we were all stunned at how… beautiful it was. Although not as hot as most other versions I’ve tried, this one was lovely in that it had a subtle sweetness and somewhat delicate element to it. Both my mum and Janice could not help but spoon the sauce, once all the chicken and vegies had been devoured, all over their bowls of rice as it was so good.
The ubiquitous prawn pad thai ($14.90). Yes, it’s so cliched, so common and so gweilo but it’s popular for a reason: it’s damn good. And Rama Thai make a pretty, pretty good one. One par with Ghin Khao as one of the nicest ones I’ve had with all the flavours – sweet, salty and sour – being perfectly balanced even if it was more lukewarm than hot.
Yum nua yang (Thai grilled beef salad at $13.90) was another crowd pleaser. Served at room temperature, the chef was able to successfully blend both the saltiness of the fish sauce and the acidity of the lime juice into a flavour that was both harmonious yet one that was still able to create a beautiful contrast. I would have liked the beef to be less well-done but apart from that, a successful dish.
Mee krob (or ‘crispy noodles’ $17.90), basically crispy thin rice noodles with a sweet sauce that’s balanced with a touch of tamarind for some tang, garnished with prawns. Everyone seemed to like this dish and while I liked the texture, I thought it was a bit too sweet for me. I’m not sure whether this dish is supposed to be this sweet (it was sweeter than Chinese sweet and sour sauce) or whether Rama Thai’s version is sweeter than others, but I think I would have enjoyed a bit more ‘sour’ or ‘salty’ in my mee krob.
We had only ordered the above dishes but we weren’t 100% full so we ordered two more:
Again, pad thai but this time chicken ($13.90) as Ken was complaining of “prawn overload.” While the chicken version was nice, I liked the prawn one just that little bit better…
Okay, so maybe ordering two more dishes was too much because by then, we were REALLY full. Still, the ‘talay thai‘, originally a mixed seafood dish (but we specifically requested fish fillets only), ($18.90) was so good that we were just able to finish it all. The fish fillets were coated in a light crispy batter and served with a sauce made out of nam phrik (red curry) paste that was both spicy and salty – okay, maybe a bit TOO salty though.
The bill was a smidgen over $119, but we got $20 off thanks to the Entertainment Book discount which meant that we got a very good meal at a very reasonable price. Even without the discount, I’d say that the dishes were reasonably priced though my parents did say that the servings were a bit small. Apart from the fact that the food wasn’t hot enough in most instances, we all enjoyed our meal there. While the food was not as clean and fresh as Charm Thai nor as hearty and filling as Ying Thai, it definitely stands its ground in the leafy Eastern suburbs of Melbourne and given that there was only one waitress working that night, she did a fantastic job in recommending dishes and ensuring that we were served at a reasonable pace. Given the number of Thai restaurants in the Doncaster area alone, I probably won’t go ALL the way to Camberwell just for Thai food but would definitely not rule out going there for dinner if I happen to be in the area for whatever reason.