BATAVIA – The first notable thing I can tell you about my introductory meal at Tusk Thai Cuisine in Batavia is that I woke up looking forward to my leftovers.
My friend and I ordered takeout from there on a very chilly night, the kind that required scraping your windshield with frozen fingers. Turn defrost on high, scrape, then scrape some more. We headed to pick up our food, which we ordered online easily. The server brought it straight to my car. We didn’t even have to step out.
We selected two appetizers and two main dishes. The prices were super reasonable – including tip, it came to just above $40.
To start, the spring rolls tasted like, well, spring. I think I’ve always assumed that the use of “spring” meant the type of spring that bounces, but it turns out this version’s flavors evoke the season instead of the verb. The roll had been constructed and sliced into small bites, the size of a piece of sushi, and served with a side of plum dipping sauce.
Between the sweet sauce and the crunchiness of the cucumber, bean sprouts, tofu and carrot, I felt like I had been transported to the first day of warm, springtime sunshine. It’s hard to explain, but the taste conjured that feeling of hope you get when you discover crocuses sprouting up through the thawing ground. Trust me on this, and try them for yourself.
Gyo was our other appetizer. Described on the menu as “fried dumplings filled with sweet potato noodles, mushrooms and tofu bits,” the dumplings were crispy and warm. The sweetness of the sweet potato mixture – dipped into a little bit of soy sauce – was the perfect warmup for our main course. I appreciated that the dumpling wrappers were thinner than typical pot stickers.
We ordered a curry stew and pad Thai for our main dishes. As someone who enjoys a bit of spice but doesn’t want the heat to be overwhelming, I appreciated that the menu let us dial in our spice level on a scale from zero to five. For both dishes, we went with “medium,” which had a bit of a kick. I’d highly recommend adding a side of peanut sauce (just $1.50 and completely worth it) for the pad Thai, which came with crushed peanuts, meat of your choice (we went with chicken), green onion and a few spirals of shredded carrot on top. The servings were large enough that we both ate to our hearts’ content and still had leftovers.
And lastly, we dug into the star of this Tusk Thai show: the Mussamon curry. This yellow curry, described on the menu as “a thick stew,” came with pineapple, potatoes, peanuts and a meat of your choice. We opted to go without meat, and I’m glad we did; the flavors in this curry didn’t need anything else. The sweetness of the pineapple balanced out the whole peanuts. We ate it over rice, which was sticky and served mainly as a vehicle for the curry. The whole thing felt warming, like something you’d want to eat if you’re homesick or not feeling well. It was so good that we giggled at the delight of a newfound favorite dish.
Tusk Thai has been open since 2010. According to its website, the “interior is designed to be reminiscent of the owner’s hometown of Surin, Thailand.” Learning that and experiencing how good the food and leftovers were, I will definitely be back.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Tusk Thai Cuisine
WHERE: 102 N. River St., Batavia