inamo (Soho)

When it comes to takeaways, I’ve always veered towards Indian cuisine, fish ‘n chips, or – due to my lethargy and ignorance – Domino’s. I’ve never really found myself spreading further east than India, and have neglected Chinese food, in particular. With a view to broadening my culinary horizons, I visited inamo in Soho, and will also soon be reviewing Yauatcha – hopefully, then, I will feel capable of ordering from a Chinese menu without looking like a complete rookie.

What do they do?

inamo pride themselves on tasty pan-Asian food, with (it appeared) a focus on Chinese and Japanese food. Though they have an extensive menu, the students amongst us will have particular interest in their £20 set menu, which encompasses 4 courses; during the Restaurant Festival, and £25 option was available, with this also including a cocktail. It’s also worth noting that a proud hallmark of inamo seems to be their interactive tables and innovative service (see below – no, seriously).

What did we have?

We opted for the Restaurant Festival menu, given that a £5 cocktail looked much enticing than a £6 [?!] pint. The cocktail in question was the Bijin Berry, which was a vodka and berry concoction – this was tasty enough, but perhaps a little weak.

Food-wise, we both started off with the Miso Soup. Being a novice in both Chinese and Japanese food, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but gather (from lacklustre attempts to immerse myself in sushi at YO! Sushi) that this is a classic Japanese delicacy. It was perfectly pleasant, but not quite a culinary epiphany – it seemed too salty and a little watery, but was fine.

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so-so soup

Following this, we shared Beef Tataki and Ebi Tempura. The tataki was delicious – seared fairly minimally, and full of flavour and juices, offset nicely by fresh ginger. The tempura was crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and gorgeously accompanied by garlic aioli and lime – the shrimp and aioli were rather delicate flavours, in comparison to the sharpness of the lime, but this made for a delightful and interesting combination.

For our main course, we both had Spicy Miso Salmon. This was a fairly generous portion, accompanied by plenty of rice (which I, predictably, completely failed to eat using chopsticks). The salmon was tasty and well-balanced, in light of the various dressings, but was not particularly special, bearing in mind that it is one of inamo’s flagship dishes. In fairness, though, the ignorant Brit in me was perfectly satisfied.

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For dessert, we shared Baked Banana & Caramel Ice Cream, and Vanilla Crème Brûlée. I was particularly taken with the banana dish, which was dangerously sweet but delectably tamed by the ice cream. The brûlée was less striking, and the strawberry and lemongrass ‘soup’ that it was bathed in felt more like an afterthought than a genuine complement to the main event.

The Verdict

Value for money – 3/5: this was a good meal, and served as a nice welcome to – as they put it – pan-Asian food. However, for the money (£25 plus tip), there are definitely better eats out there.

Pretentiousness – 5/5: as alluded to at the beginning, our table was interactive. This meant that we could: change the background of our table (which was projected from the ceiling); order food using a built-in mouse on our table; and, play battleships whilst we waited. The background feature was nifty (but a bit intense – for instance, there was an aggressive, Farage-esque, Union Jack background); the ordering feature was handy, but meant that staff paid little attention to customers, assuming that everything would be dealt with via the table – a bit impersonal; and, battleships was very entertaining – fair play.

Atmosphere: 3/5 – nothing exceptional to report on, here, but the interior was pretty sharp, and – regardless of their complete pretentiousness – the interactive tables did make for a less monotonous design.

inamo was good fun, and a tasty meal. I think, however, that I’d perhaps want to explore a bit more of London’s Asian cuisine before pledging allegiance. Watch this space for the Yauatcha review…

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