Inamo: Top marks for concept and for food (December 2013)

The term “interactive oriental fusion” (used by Inamo on its website) could mean almost anything. In itself it would obviously not be an endorsement for this restaurant or indeed any other, quite the contrary. Let’s think about the words in turn. First, interactive – surely all restaurants involve some form of interaction, hopefully between the diners and almost certainly between the customers and the staff; after, all, that’s why service is included on the bill? Next, oriental – well, ‘the east’ is a pretty broad geographic region and the cuisines of countries as diverse as China and India share little in common, making it hard to guess what might be on offer. And, finally fusion – we all loved this word circa 20 years ago – remember Nobu when it launched or the now sadly defunct Sugar Club? – but now it is so commonplace, trying-a-little-too-hard to be cool for it almost to be meaningless. Despite these semantic quibbles, DO go to Inamo. It is very different, a good and fun place, particularly in a group – and we rated both the experience and the food. In practice, interactive means that each table has its own computer embedded, allowing customers to select their food and drinks, alter the ambience (the design on the table and the hue of lighting), even play games with the person opposite, and eventually request the bill. Far from being a gimmick or a simple talking point, the system allowed us to peruse the menu at our leisure, view pictures of all the dishes on offer and add to/ amend our order as needed. Need more rice or another beer? Then why wait for a rushed and distracted waiter when Inamo allows you to order it at a click? Despite the place being almost full, all of our drinks/ dinner arrived promptly and were delivered with good grace by the – fortunately human, as opposed to robotic – staff. And, despite this being a ‘concept restaurant’ based in Soho theatre-land with high turnover (we were reminded on several occasions slightly irritatingly that our table had to be returned within an hour-and-a-half), the drinks and food were remarkably good. We kicked off with cocktails, mostly Martinis, for the group and my signature Inamo had just the right amount of chilli and alcohol to set proceedings off in the right way. We then moved on to a very agreeable – and also reasonably priced – New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to accompany the meal, a perfect foil for the Asian flavours. Our waiter suggested two small dishes and one large per person and so we ended up with 10+ different dishes at the table, allowing us to enjoy a broad range. There were no failures and overall the standard was consistently high, especially given the variety of cuisines. We particularly rated the luscious black cod tartar among the smaller dishes and then both the miso yuzu salmon (with a delicious pickled salad) and the Berkshire pork neck (slow-roasted with spicy chocolate and wasabi) from the larger ones. In conclusion, Inamo should continue to prosper on the London restaurant scene – a great idea (better for a group though, I would argue, than a romantic meal) and the food to match.