Sichuan River (from the owners of A+A Sichuan in North Austin) has taken over the Tien Jin Chinese restaurant at 4534 Westgate Blvd (on the Hwy 290 eastbound frontage road at Westgate; same strip center as Black Swan Yoga and Sap's Thai). Can't say I had ever been to Tien Jin, but I have now had food from Sichuan River three times in two and a half weeks.
My first time, I got eggplant in garlic sauce for carry out, along with the fried dumplings. My butcher friend had been there, and I thought he had said he had the eggplant with pork, which is what I asked for when I called. Turns out the pork isn't normally part of this dish (I've had it that way at Asia Cafe a place I really really like in far northwest ATX) but they had no problem adding it in. Verdict: thumbs up! Although after I had posted the picture on Facebook, one comment was that it looked like a dismembered Smurf. The eggplant is incredibly tender and the sauce was mildly sweet with a hint of a twang. The dumplings were a bit of a miss, but I am partially to blame, as they sat in a styrofoam container for 20+ minutes, and the ensuing condensation negated any crispiness that pan-frying gave them. I'd order them again, but only if I was eating there. On the plus side, the dough for the dumplings was much, much better than that at Asia Cafe, where it is WAY too thick, and the soy sauce-based dipping sauce breathed some life into them. Oh, and the eggplant dish, which comes with rice? I got three meals out of that!
Butcher friend had also recommended the Sizzling Sichuan Lamb, and yeah, it was spot on! It's spicy, though you could probably have them dial it back a bit (see the dried red chiles and the sliced jalapenos?!). And tender. So tender. Very heavy on the cumin (yes, not just for Latin foods!), and a little bit of Sichuan peppercorn again. I love lamb, so I was very happy. Oh, and butcher friend has always loved Asia Cafe for it's tripe, stomach, and other "weird" parts; he's been extremely happy at Sichuan River so if that's your thing, go for it!
Why am I so excited to have a Sichuan place in South Austin? I believe it's the first place really serving authentic Sichuan (Szechuan/Szechwan) down south. And they're not heavy on the Americanized Chinese dishes, though they do have some if that's your thing. And on this Saturday night, the clientele was two-thirds Chinese, and by the time we left, they had a good-sized crowd. And they are close to my work, so I see more nights of eggplant with pork in my future. Both times I have eaten there, I've had the same waitress who is very good, and speaks good English and has good humor. I am starting to hear a bit of a buzz about Sichuan River, and for those of us in South Austin, this is a great addition to our food scene.