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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Restaurant review: Jing Chuan ****

The American version of Chinese cuisine has achieved a solid place in the dining hierarchy for many of us:

Comfort food.

It's quick, affordable, and you can't drive a couple of miles without seeing a sit-down restaurant or carry-out. You pretty much always know what you're getting, and once you settle on your favorites then it's downright reassuring to sit down in front of a heaping plate of Chinese food and enjoy the meal.

Which raises the challenge for the restaurants: How do you set yourself apart?

Jing Chuan on Secor Road just north of Sylvania Avenue succeeds by providing years of reliability, a comfortable atmosphere, and the customary dishes served well.

My companion and I kicked off a recent meal with a couple of appetizers - kuo teh ($5.50), which are pan-fried, meat-filled dumplings, and crab rangoon ($5.50). The pairing was excellent because of their complementary qualities. The kuo teh has a salty, doughy vibe while the crab rangoon is sweet and crunchy, making for a great way to kick off a meal.

Garlic chicken ($10.25) is a Chinese staple but can be bland, so we asked the waiter if we could have it spiced up a bit, which wasn't a problem. It had a nice lingering zing that wasn't overwhelming. The vegetable deluxe ($9.25) is an assortment of crispy veggies served in a white sauce that is ideal for the vegetarian.

The only bummer entree was the orange beef ($12.75). It was too chewy and so sweet and sticky that its flavor overwhelmed the entire presentation.

For lunch we dug into the restaurant's excellent soups. The egg drop was included with my lunch, and my companion ordered the hot and sour ($5.25). It came in a portion that was large enough to leave some for taking home.

The shrimp with cashews ($7.50) was exceptional. The nuts were fresh and crunchy, and Jing Chuan doesn't skimp on the shrimp. We also ordered the Mongolian beef ($6.95), which will be high on my list when I return. The beef was tender with a smoky flavor that was delicious.

Jing Chuan is consistent, the wait staff is prompt and willing to jazz up the dishes if you ask, and the restaurant itself is attractive and comfortable.

Contact Bill of Fare at: fare@theblade.com

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