Another new restaurant to open at Kerry Center, In and Out, is a Lijiang themed restaurant serving Yunnan cuisine from the Dai, Bai and Naxi minority groups. Essential ingredients are flown in from Yunnan and all the servers and kitchen staff comes from Yunnan as well. The first branch of In and Out opened in Beijing 10 years ago and it is a long standing favourite with a popular following.
If you’ve never had Yunnan food before, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. It combines the use of dry spices from cooking styles of other Western China provinces like Xinjiang, with the use of fresh herbs and citrus from neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam. The result is food that is bright and refreshing but also grounded by savoury spices.
Take the Roast Tilapia with Lemon Grass (68RMB) for example. It’s coated with cumin for roasting, then served with mint and cilantro piled on top plus lime wedges. The roasted fish was not dry at all and the mixtures of flavours was tantalizing.
Sautéed Potatoes with Mint & Hot Peppers (36RMB) was comforting, like a warm starchy potato salad, but the use of mint and peppers was something new for the tongue and mind to ponder. Either way, it was a delicious dish that was quickly devoured.
When we tasted the Loofah Sprouts Salad with Mujiangzi (38RMB), the lime and chilies flavor made us all immediately think of Thailand. The Jingpo-Style Silkie Chicken (48RMB) has a similar fresh taste, with the black skinned silkie chicken shredded finely and mixed with lime, chilies and cilantro.
For dessert, you could try the Erhai Dried Milk Silk (28RMB). It is fried milk dusted with powdered sugar. At first you taste sweetness from the sugar, then a salty aftertaste from the fried milk lingers.
There’s also Cold Sticky Rice Congee (22RMB), which is sweet rice with a creamy texture soaked in rose flavoured syrup.
For a taste of Yunnan, go to In and Out at the Kerry Center. Lunch time is very busy but the crowds do thin out a lot at 1pm.
New Dish In 2018.11
I was fortunate and honored to be asked to review one of my favorite restaurants! In & Out is part of the Kerry Center complex, across Heng Changshou Road from the main building. The Hangzhou Metro Fengqi Road Station (lines 1 and 2) is directly next to it, opening onto Yan’an Road.
In & Out is a Chinese restaurant, it’s focused on a specific region’s cuisine, Yunnan, and specific unique Yunnan ingredients feature heavily into their dishes. This makes its dishes unique and interesting above and beyond simply tasting amazing. If you’re a foodie-type, a person interested in food for the joy of discovering new things, this is a great place to go.
In & Out’s culinary crew make regular pilgrimages to Yunnan to explore and find new dishes and ingredients which are compiled regularly in new seasonal menus (ours was the October menu). On the ingredients: they’re dedicated to sourcing a huge chunk of their stuff from Yunnan; this means that a *lot* of descriptions can’t be translated into English as the only available naming conventions are from the Latin or Greek used by biologists. Consider: Ottelia Acuminate Salad (38RMB); the Wikipedia description says it’s an aquatic plant from Southern China and *that’s about it*. I say that it’s delicious, lending itself to a delicate salad that looked like a noodle dish from across the table, with the plant’s smooth, long stems resembling green spaghetti.
We followed with the more complex Lijiang Maitake Salad (32RMB), a fungus-focused dish with a soft crunch and the Mingyin Grilled Eggplant (28RMB) which is FANTASTIC which I hope to god they migrate to their main menu. It’s smoky without being overwhelming. Unlike typical grilled eggplant with a charred exterior, this thoroughly internalizes the flavors while maintaining a silky soft skin. It takes full advantage of eggplant’s spongy capacity to absorb flavors. I kept coming back to this throughout the meal.
One more salad-focused dish was the Sautéed Four Prismatic Beans with Fried Termitomyces Albuminosus (32RMB). This is served over a delicious earthy sauce, reminiscent of a peanut sauce in flavor and color, but lighter and smoother (and no peanuts).
Also in the vein of light and smooth, In & Out’s take on potatoes, Lijiang Stir-Fried Purple Potatoes (36RMB) are a mild cousin in taste to the shredded potato dishes you find in Sichuan restaurants, eschewing their crunch but somehow keeping other aspects of texture.
The meaty main dishes: We were brought a delicious hot and sour fish dish, North Gate Slope Glasses Hot-and-Sour Fish (98RMB), stewed with big slices of tofu. After that, a simple, deeply satisfying dish—Stewed Chicken Soup With Ham and Tricholoma Matsutake (328RMB)—made with a whole chicken flown in from China’s southwest (*reservation only!*), and it looks and tastes exceptional with a bird plumper than the tough and sinewy eastern Chinese chickens one might normally encounter in Hangzhou.
Drinks! In & Out has unique juices with alternative flavors to the norm. We enjoyed their Fresh Yunnan Sour Papaya Juice (cold, can also be served hot; 25RMB/glass, 88RMB/pitcher).
In & Out offers accessible, honest, and unpretentious exoticism. Normally I avoid Chinese booze, and this place offers a wonderfully enjoyable exception. Dai-Style Rice Wine (42RMB/500ml, 98RMB/1200ml) barely has a hint of alcohol and instead is fresh and subtle and fruity without being too sweet; a microcosm for all the unusual and unique and delicious offerings from In & Out: Delicious, balanced, accessible, convenient, unique; a portal to Chinese food from far away from Hangzhou.