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Inamo Review

Katy Harrington tries dinner with a side of futuristic fun

Written by . Published on September 13th 2011.


Inamo Review

RUNNING ten minutes late, I dash down Wardour Street to Inamo, an oriental fusion bar and restaurant, where my patient friend awaits. She has been instructed to have a drink downstairs, and when I arrive I join her. Both parched, we order Asahi beers (£4.75) to kickstart the proceedings. And then we wait and wait…and wait. After a while I approach the bar only to be told to sit again. So I stop wagging my tail and do as told until finally the drinks arrive and I stop panting. This is a bugbear of mine – if you are going to have table service then please ensure the staff aren’t sluggish or more interested in looking at their reflection in shiny surfaces than serving drinks.

Weeks after you eat it, the memory of the seared tuna coated (drool) in black bean and wasabi served on pickled mouli (tongue drops to floor) with cucumber miso dressing (let me fetch my mop), will make your mouth water as mine is now.

Inamo’s mission statement reads: 'Inamo is a pioneering restaurant and bar where the control of the dining experience is placed firmly in your hands. Our mission is to provide delicious cuisine with charming and timely service in a warm and vibrant atmosphere.' Clearly the hostess hadn’t read this. She informed us, in the manner of an SS officer, that our drink downstairs had cost us 30 minutes of our allotted 90-minute table time (in my opinion turning tables every 90 minutes is a little greedy and only makes me want to contumaciously eat every bite full as slowly as possible.) Yet while nothing quite sets the tone for a relaxing meal like being told you have 60 minutes to get out, arguing with the ice maiden seemed futile, so we played sit again. (As it happened, by 10:30pm the restaurant had many free tables so we were left to dawdle as long as we wished).

Thankfully, the rest of the staff were not from Planet Sourface, and as first time diners at Inamo, a friendly waitress gave us a helpful mini tutorial on how to use the interactive ordering system and then disappeared to let us get on with it. There are no menus at Inamo; your table is your menu and your waiter. An illustrated food and drinks menu is projected onto the table surface so you can browse and select anything you want. Luddites – fret not. Ordering is as easy as rolling your finger across a mouse pad. If you make a mistake, pas de problem. Items can be deleted and there is a summary of your order (and your total) so you can keep track of everything. 

Vegetarian makiVegetarian maki

Ordering at Inamo is when the fun begins. You can play games (handy if your date is a bore), change the ‘atmosphere’ (i.e. the colour and patterns of your electronic tablecloth) and even book your taxi home at the click of a button. It’s a great toy and a brilliant icebreaker/talking point. (Just take my word on one thing – if you are on a date, choose your atmosphere settings carefully. Some bathe your visage in a most unflattering drowned corpse greeny/yellow light). There is also a web cam showing live action from the kitchen, but by the time we discovered it, we were too hungry to care.

There are no starters or main courses as such on the menu, rather smaller and larger dishes with a choice of sides that arrive arbitrarily, whenever they are ready. I happen to be a fan of this unfussy way of eating, and soon our table is crowded with bright, good-looking food.

Waiting staff are not needed to order but they do deliver your food and drinks and while ours was opening the wine I asked him what ‘Inamo’ meant. Maybe I was missing the waiter/customer banter because after he politely explained that it means ‘in love’ in Spanish I said, “That’s much nicer than the English…as in ‘I’ll be with you in a mo dear!’” And then I wished I hadn’t. Been born.

Enough bad jokes and onto some good food. For our small plates we chose vegetarian maki (£6.25), a new dish on the menu. The ingredients may change from time to time but ours was filled with asparagus and cucumber wrapped in peppers and avocado. It was refreshing, light and lasted on my plate about as long as a snowball in hell.

Black bean tunaBlack bean tuna

Fresh tuna fans will die and go to heaven, while tinned tuna philistines will be converted by the black bean tuna (£7.50). This dish is simple and sexy, but do yourself a favour and order two. It’s a small portion and none will go to waste. Weeks after you eat it, the memory of the seared tuna coated (drool) in black bean and wasabi served on pickled mouli (tongue drops to floor) with cucumber miso dressing (let me fetch my mop), will make your mouth water as mine is now. Whatever about quick interactive ordering, I’d be willing to engrave my order on a stone tablet to eat this dish again.

Img_1429Tamarind duck breast

Tamarind duck breast, another new dish, (£16.25) was served with orange, tomato and mazuna salad and tamarind sauce. Pricey, but cooked perfectly, it came in succulent slivers and was not at all fatty. Salmon for many is an unadventurous choice, but I urge you to try the gula jawa glazed salmon (£14.85). The pan-fried fish was tender with an almost crunchy glaze of fish sauce and gula jawa (which sounds like the name of a bad guy from Star Wars but is in fact a Javenese sugar). It comes with sesame and tender stem broccoli, perfect alone, but being pigs we had a side of sticky white rice for good measure. “I don’t care how rude she was, this is amazing,” my friend says as she tucks in to the salmon.  She’s right, to hell with only having 60 minutes, I could have eaten the plateful in 60 seconds. After our selection of dishes, we both agreed we felt satiated but not full. Big eaters may want more, but the food comes so quickly that there’s always the option to order more (and there’s no ten minute wait as your struggle to catch the waiter’s eye).

Vanilla cr%26#232%3Bme br%26#251%3Bl%26#233%3BeVanilla creme brulee

I generally excuse Asian and oriental restaurants for bad desserts, it’s not their bag…and honestly, who wants pudding after a curry anyway? But in the interest of due diligence, we tried dessert. Expecting mediocre, we got excellent. Vanilla crème brûlée (£6.85) with strawberry and lemongrass coulis was a divine. Dessert-wise – is there anything better a mouthful of a crunchy toffeeish sugar topping followed by custardy creamy brûlée? Well if there is then I want to come to your house for dinner. The selection of homemade ice cream (£5.50) was also very good. 

The wine list at Inamo has holes in it. We chose the Spanish house white (£17.05), which could be described as citrusy and crisp, or two other ‘c’ words…cheap and cheerful. The next price bracket up was too rich for my pockets, with far too many bottles for £40 – £60. And while Inamo isn’t cheap, the wine prices didn’t seem to tally with the food menu. "Stop complaining," I hear you say, "Asian-fusion food doesn’t go with wine." Fools! Wine goes with EVERYTHING. And I expect a mid-price restaurant to have a few decent choices for under £30. 

All said, Inamo delivers a slick, modern eating experience with an added fun factor. Technology aside, the food is worth going for. Portions are a little small and prices are a little high, but if you want delicious food fast then look no further. It’s just a pity that in a restaurant where you essentially don’t need a waiter, you can’t simply bypass the troll at the door too.

 

Inamo
134-136 Wardour Street
London, W1F 8ZP

 

Rating:        17/20

Breakdown:  9/10 food
                   3/5 service
                   5/5 ambience

Follow @tweetkatyh on Twitter

 

 

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.

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