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Sichuan River

Finally, a win for south-of-the-river.

A new Sichuan joint, Sichuan River, will open (has opened?) in Tien Jin's stead at Westgate. Apparently one of A+A's owners pulled an A+A on their own place. (For those who don't know, A+A splintered off from Asia Cafe a few years ago.) Odam is a bit inaccurate here:

http://www.austin360.com/weblogs/the-...

Anyone been yet?

On a related note, northern Chinese seems to be the new it:
http://www.yelp.com/biz/chen-z-austin-3
http://www.yelp.com/biz/julies-handma...
http://www.xianfresh.com

Halleloo!

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  1. Went today for lunch. Menu/prices comparable to other Sichuan places in town. Traditional/American menus. Ordered Chongqing chicken, spicy fish filets, cold cut plate. Big portions. High fish-to-veg ratio. Fish was very tender. Hella spicy. Best was the cold cuts: you get to pile a plate high with whatever you want from a half-dozen rotating items (today - sliced beef, chitterlings, pickled chicken feet, wood ears and peppers, spicy bamboo shoots, baby bok choy) on buffet table in back for $8.50 - prob one of best deals in town. Beef and chitterlings were esp well done. Solicitous service. Will be a regular spot for me in south.

    1 Reply
    1. re: conquer

      that cold cut plate sounds goooood.

    2. Wish I would have known this today as we ate at CM Cafe. I have never been able to hit up any of the highly rated Sichuan places up north because they're so damned far away. Probably try this place Tuesday... Thanks for the heads up.

      -sw

      1. On the phone they told me it was the same owners. We may have had some communication issues over the phone. Are you suggesting one of the ladies splintered?

        6 Replies
        1. re: matthewodam

          Yep, that's what A+A told me in Chinese.

          1. re: conquer

            Weird. That's who I talked to, as well. I will check in with them later today and update the blog with a correction. Thanks for pointing it out.

            1. re: conquer

              I've known the owners of A+A for about 3 years and have been trying to get them to open up a South location. From what they told me, this is not a splintering, but indeed an expansion. They had even contemplated keeping the same name for the new location, but decided against it.

              1. re: Joe MacBu

                A woman at A+A I talked to on Saturday said it had nothing to do with them. Maybe it was originally going to be an expansion, but they decided to part ways? Anyway.

                1. re: conquer

                  I went there for dinner last night. They said some of the partners of A+A are the owners, but it's not an A+A expansion. The menu is significantly different from A+A's, and the dishes that are common are prepared a bit differently. Anyway, it's fantastic that they have opened up south Austin.

                  1. re: Joe MacBu

                    Was there last night, as well. Really enjoyed the Mapo tofu and sliced pork in hot chili oil and water spinach with chopped garlic. And our waitress, a hold-over from Tien Jin, was a delightful trip. (And, yes, they said one of the A+A partners/owners has partnered with the S. River owner, but not split from A+A.)

            1. re: lodermulch

              Don't know where to start. I'm not nearly familiar with Sichuan food as I am Cantonese. Need more pictures! Or at least some brief descriptions.

              -sw

              1. re: sqwertz

                sqwertz - let's go and I will treat. It's is a totally different experience.

            2. Tried it tonight - everything from the outside to inside looks exactly the same as Tien Jin, except for the new Sichuan River desktop printed menu. Still had new restaurant issues though, took a while to get our food. But the food was pretty good, and definitely spicy. It's still a dreary, hole in the wall though so hopefully they invest in some atmosphere. Worth trying if you like Sichuan flavors.

              1. Went for a late lunch today and ordered the ChongQing MaLa Beef ($13.99) and the Dan Dan Noodles (6.50). Dan Dan noodles came first - udon-like noodles swimming in oily red broth topped with very finely minced fried meat of indeterminate species, green onions, and sparse baby napa cabbage leaves (no, no peanut or peanut butter here). Moderately hot but I found it a tad bland and needing a small shot of salt.

                My MaLa Beef request came back from kitchen with a warning from the chef that it's pretty spicy (yeah, yeah, whatever). I was expecting something saucier as mala is the ubiquitous *sauce* used in or on everything, but this was simply about 2/3rd/lb of dry-fried low-quality beef covered in spices (had a slight livery taste). Decent flavor overall, 50% hotter than the noodle dish, but again - still kinda boring. Served on a bed of shredded bitter iceberg lettuce (no, "bitter lettuce" is not a Chinese vegetable).

                She is a whimp and ordered several appetizers from the separate gringo menu, one of which was the crab rangoon/wontons which were sent back for being obnoxiously sweet like a fried cream-filled donut.

                The menu suffers from lack of brief descriptions, let alone pictures. So either quiz your waitress or just roll the dice. I sure wish I would have ordered a different entree (such as their ChongDing Pickled Fish - which there IS a picture of on the Net).

                (I took pictures with my cheap cell phone but my lens was dirty or steamy - Not worth posting)

                -sw

                3 Replies
                1. re: sqwertz

                  had lunch here today as well. only dish we had in common was the dan dan. not my favorite style. chongqing chicken, otoh, was pretty good. could have used a bit of salt, but it's the dry-fried, no-batter approach that i prefer with this dish. spicy fish fillets were good as well. but the highlight was the cold bar in the back. spicy beef shank, a chilled chicken dish with a chile / sichuan peppercorn sauce, a refreshing cabbage dish, and another item or two. service was super friendly.

                  1. re: Steven Dilley

                    I was there at 2:30 (or so) and we were the only guests. The staff was sitting down eating at the back right table. If the cold bar was an option, she didn't mention it to us but I would have seriously considered it. I didn't go up and look at it, but I saw two serving carts - one for the big kettles of soups that were still active (she ladled some egg drop soup out of it for us). And the other just had deep wells of something - like the canisters you'd use for a salad bar. Is there a back, back dining room?

                    1. re: sqwertz

                      yeah, the cold bar is adjacent to the soup cart. sichuan house on burnet has something similar, though i think they only stock it on the weekend.

                2. I made it in today for lunch to check it out and proclaim what I had outstanding. My Sichuan yardsticks are Spicy Fish Filet, ZHONG dumplings, and dry-fried green beans. I didn't see the ZHONG on the menu so we go the other two and then some samplings from the cold bar (black fungus, the beef/tripe thing, and the pickled chicken feet). Not a miss in the bunch.

                  While the fish is a little different than those at Asia Market or A+A, I think I like this better. My dining companion was eating the fish sauce/oil with a spoon like soup. I don't feel like I get enough of that mala sensation often enough at other places, but this...this did it and did it well.

                  The staff was as nice as could be and were very impressed with two Americans eating chicken feet. The flavor on those feet was fantastic. I can't wait to go back and experiment a little more with the menu.

                  1. We finally made it over. We split the Chong Qing Pickled Fish, which was huge, easily enough for two people. The sauce was spicy (hot), but not excessive. You could definitely taste the 'ma' and 'la', and a vague pickle-like flavour. Would definitely eat again. Service was solid, and it was not at all crowded for lunch.

                    The old Tien Jin sign is still up (at least when we were there), in case you're looking for a new sign.

                    I hope they do all right. The table next to us was griping about how 'it wasn't as good as it was' and 'what happened to the buffet?'

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: lodermulch

                      I ordered the Pickled fish yesterday and I don't think they gave me what they're giving everyone else. It was a soup. It was outstanding, but it doesn't look like the same photo that's on Yelp of it. Here's a photo of mine. It was served in a large bowl and ladled into smaller ones. It was spicy, but more because it had a sort of sport-like pepper in it (whole). They know me there and know I'm into the good stuff, so I'd be surprised if they "gringoed" me or something. I specifically ordered it from the "Chef's Specials" section.

                       
                      1. re: foodiegal71

                        I haven't been yet but that looks like the authentic fish with pickled peppers.

                        Maybe they gringoed the other people.

                        1. re: lixlix

                          Hahahaha! They do know me and know I like the real stuff. The last time I was there, they were laughing at us eating the chicken feet saying they'd never seen Americans eat them.

                          Also, went back today (I may have a problem) with a large group from work and the cold bar thing is gone. It's now a section on the menu and each dish is individually priced at about $7-8. We had the pickled mushrooms and the sliced beef in chili and both were outstanding.

                          We also had the green beans, the spicy fish filet and the Ma La Chicken. There were 4 first timers with us and all but one seemed to greatly enjoy everything. This is becoming a once a week visit for me at this point.

                          1. re: foodiegal71

                            It's a great thing to introduce first-timers. I was able to convert at least eight people from work during Asia Cafe's transition from the market to the stand-alone. I remember a one timer ordering orange chicken. He said "orange chicken is my standard for judging a Chinese restaurant." My ego interrupted in my head and he went down a notch, at least until I had the orange chicken. What's not to like about spicy fried pieces of chicken in citrus? One time we ordered the rabbit (may have mentioned this years ago), and it was a cold dish. My engine friend said "this tastes like Bugs Bunny," and then no one could eat it. One surprising this was that newbies would eat the S&P frog's legs.

                            And we always had the green beans. The best time was when we had a ten top spinner and all sharing. Keep it going foodiegal. Maybe one day we can have at least double the asian restaurants in town if more people grab on -- and I'm not talking about gdammed "concepts." If I hear that word again......

                          2. re: lixlix

                            Ha - I got gringoed at the thai place out past Bergtrom years ago. Love that term. A playa cannot allow him or herself to be gringoed. I swear to god, and this is bad, but I've even emulated an amorphous "asian" accent when ordering takeout. Just to be safe.

                              1. re: rudeboy

                                okay Rudeboy, if you haven't read it, call up Books a Million and see if they have a copy of "A Practical Guide to Racism". I just have this hunch you may really love it. One of the funniest things I've read. It'll be 4 bucks.

                                1. re: slowcoooked

                                  I have to drop off some books at Half Priced Book anyhow, so I will look for that. Funny - when I was in Bangladesh, my host would joke that if I bled, my blood would come out white. He didn't cut me to find out, though.

                                  1. re: rudeboy

                                    'I no speak English' is the most useful English phrase I've learned.