Dish of the week: Chinese spicy jumping fish filet

Spicy jumping fish filet (top) and hot and spicy pork are two standouts at Sichuan River in South Austin.
Spicy jumping fish filet (top) and hot and spicy pork.

When you order steamed fish dishes, especially ones soaking in sauce, you worry about sogginess. Will the fish hold up? Will it maintain springiness while absorbing its broth? The spicy jumping fish filet ($18.99) at Sichuan River did.

The restaurant says it uses flounder, and though a friend of mine swears it is the Vietnamese river fish swai, the quibble is unimportant. Swimming in sauce and covered in a shower of green onion and a confetti of red pepper, the chunks of white fish absorbed the sauce’s soy-fueled umami blast while maintaining a tender but firm consistency.

The dish comes from the “Chef’s Specialties” section of the menu at the restaurant owned by Cindy Zhao. Austin diners will recognize the Kunming native as the former owner of A+A Sichuan restaurant in Northwest Austin. Zhao sold that restaurant last year and opened her West Gate restaurant in May. That roster also includes Szechuan stir-fried chicken, the popcorn nuggets scattered with floral and numbing Szechuan peppers ($12.99).

Yes, you can get Americanized dishes, like the best sesame chicken I’ve had in Austin ($9.75), its sauce not quite as viscous and sweet as others, but search for the dishes with the red chili glow, like hot and spicy pork ($11.99) in a soup shimmering with chili oil or mapo tofu ($8.25).

Sichuan River is open daily for lunch and dinner and offers delivery within three miles of the restaurant.

4534 West Gate Blvd. 512-892-6699,


Dish of the week: Crab Florentine

FullSizeRenderTangy, tart, crunchy and creamy with a citrus-spritz iron punch of spinach, this week’s Dish of the Week is a longtime brunch standout.

The Crab Florentine ($24) at Perla’s on South Congress Avenue is one of the stars at that restaurant’s brunch, and one of my favorite brunch dishes in town right now. You’ll find opaque slivers of garlic mingled throughout the lemon-splashed spinach and lump crab meat that all gets buried under an ooze of egg yolk and Hollandaise. Somehow the English muffins at the bottom of the pile retain a nice crunch to support to rich dish.

Perla’s is open for brunch Saturday and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.