This week's Trials of Westside Chinese proves the axiom that there is very little in the way of palatable Chinese cuisine within the neighborhood of the 405. In fact, some of it may be outright disgraceful.

Squid Ink fantasized that Jin Jiang, the encyclopedic Canto-American banquet spot just east of the freeway, would be a gem in the rough, or at least a gem across the street from Yoshinoya, the proud home of gristled rice. It's not like the competition is stiff. Sadly, Jin Jiang falls, and falls with a cataclysmic thud.

Szechuan shrimp, served alongside half-moons of scalloped zucchini and button mushroom, was absent any heat and sauced with what can only be described as a Sunkist orange soda reduction. The Jade vegetables, a compilation of snap peas, American and Chinese broccoli in a mild garlic sauce, were freshly prepared but cloaked in a similarly thick cornstarch gel. And the crispy duck, by any measure the trophy presentation of American Chinese kitchens from Vancouver to San Diego, was an outrage, an affront to ducks as much as people. Fibrous, bland and bone dry, what crispness it displayed was purely incidental, having been raised from its bath of oil perhaps last week, and cured in the dessicated air of Jin Jiang's idling kitchen. There was no respect paid to the skin, which peeled away from the flesh in grey, sodden sheets, and the entire carcass was hidden beneath shrimp chips dyed every color of the diversionary rainbow.

Clearly shaken by the disastrous condition of the main course, we managed to slop hoisin down the spout of teapot. Thus the only satisfying item on the table was rendered inedible and the meal was over. It must be said, however, that Jin Jiang pours a mean Coca-Cola.

Verdict: Not only Just Not Good Enough, demoralizing.

Jin Jiang: 11057 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles; (310) 444-7171.

LA Weekly