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  • Yunnan food is seemingly one of Shanghai’s favorites, but it's mostly represented by a few heavy-hitting perennial favorites. In & Out does the inevitable and takes this South Western cuisine into a mall, specifically the Hubin Dao complex not far from Xintiandi. It’s light on vibes, but big on flavor.

    The place falls prey to some of the problems that many new mall restaurants do. It’s nicely decorated but lacking in atmosphere. It has good service but felt a little empty during dinner (I’m guessing they stay afloat on the lunch crowd). If you’re going for a date, you’d be able to find places with more atmosphere. But hey, some of these same attributes make it pretty ideal for big groups. It’s a pleasant, spacious dining room and, this Saturday, they accommodated around 16 of us with no problem at all.

    Thankfully, the food alone is worth going for. It’s full of the bold flavors that this cuisine is known for, without any of the watering down for local or Western palates that seems to happen at other more high-end Yunnan spots. The plates here pack lots of citrus and mint, with plenty of pickles and funky, fermented stuff providing the backbone. They also aren’t shy with the chili either, so it’s worth inquiring about the heat level of some of these dishes if you aren’t a spice junky.

    Winners include cubes of fried tofu slathered in a spicy sauce and simple stir-fried tofu skin with ham, egg and tomato. Number one was probably the fried goat’s cheese, a Yunnan resto staple, which gets elevated here with the addition of sliced, intensely salty ham and a tiny lump of fermented tofu for you to season at will. It’s great. Shout out to the cold sliced beef, too, wrapped around mint leaves and covered in chili and chopped peanuts.

    Other dishes don’t quite match these highs, but they’re consistent, with no real misses and a whole lot of character.

    It’s not as cheap, cheerful or cozy as Changning staple Lotus Eatery, though some dishes here arguably surpass their direct equivalents there. It’s also more welcoming and reasonably priced than the more buttoned-down, atmosphereic, and laowai-friendly Lost Heaven. To me, it fills a nice middle ground. It’s a worthy addition to the Shanghai Yunnan-restaurant canon, and worth seeking out if you’re looking to dine in a big group or simply want to try something new.

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SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.