Inamo - Still an innovative restaurant more than ten years on?
Inamo Soho - Restaurant Review
Cuisine: Japanese and Pan-Asian
Style Points: 3/5
I visited Inamo way back in 2014 and had a lovely time so I decided it was finally time to head back and see if the pioneering restaurant can continue to deliver a fantastic and innovative dining experience.
First launched in 2008, Inamo was a restaurant with quite a significant difference, putting technology into the heart of the dining experience. Interactive projectors from the ceiling beam directly onto each dining table, allowing diners to control everything from changing the table ‘wallpaper’ to playing games like the retro classic Battleship or even be able to watch a live camera feed from the kitchen. Even more impressive, you can order your food and call the server at any time using the touch screen interface. This is a feature that has surprisingly not been adopted by other restaurants but is something that Inamo is renowned for.
Inamo recently launched a new menu with over 40 new and reinvented dishes, including over 20 vegetarian, and 15 vegan items. But having been around for more than ten years is Inamo still an innovative restaurant? Well the answer is not so clear and if you read on you’ll understand why this is so.
We ordered a range of dishes using the touch screen of course with the help of our very friendly and helpful server Wendy. We ordered the Bang Bang Caulifower, Yuzu Pork Belly, Sweet Potato & Soba Fries, Sichuan Chicken, Teriyaki Salmon Yakitori, and the Korean BBQ Rack of Ribs sharing platter. I found using the interactive menu ok but slightly annoying as there are several menus to scroll through and it’s easy to lose a dish that you were initially interested in. It was also difficult to find the total cost of the bill as you add dishes to the basket - I think its time the user interface was updated!
However, all that was forgotten when we started playing Battleships (I won!) and our food started to appear as if by magic from the servers.
Wendy said that the Bang Bang Cauliflower was one of the most popular dishes and I could certainly see why. Big cauliflower florets are covered in a light tempura batter and fried then tossed in a lovely sweet and spicy sauce. At £10.95 it’s a lot to pay for what is essentially cauliflower florets but the portion is big and can satisfy 2-3 people easily.
The Sweet Potato and Soba Fries were also very nice, fried with tempura batter to make it quite light and crispy, and the wasabi mayo dip was wonderfully creamy with a nice subtle hint of wasabi. Again it was a big portion and enough to satisfy 2-3 people but still quite pricey at £6.95 for what is essentially a portion of fries.
The Sichuan Chicken (£14.95) was covered in a really nice sweet chilli garlic sauce that had ginger, onion and peppers. Unfortunately, the fried battered chicken was overcooked and quite dry and tough to chew. It was a real shame as there was nice flavours in the dish.
The Teriyaki Salmon Yakitori (£4.25 for one piece) was probably my favourite dish. A delicate and perfectly cooked piece of Scottish salmon brushed with a delicious teriyaki sauce. You only get one piece so there isn’t enough to go around this time but it’s definitely worth a try.
The Yuzu Pork Belly (£14.95) was again a big portion and I’d advise only ordering if there are 3-5 people in your group as for two there was quite a lot to go around and we couldn’t finish it. The pork belly was nicely cooked and very tender, juicy and fatty. The yuzu dressing was quite subtle and I thought it could have done with much more to add more moreish flavour to the dish.
The Korean BBQ Rack of Ribs sharing platter (£16.95) was of course massive and can easily serve 3-5 people. The ribs fell off the bone as you’d hope for but I found the Korean BBQ sauce rather bland unfortunately and there was not enough of it to begin with. When I picture ribs I imagine big juicy ribs that are absolutely smothered in BBQ sauce that is sweet, tangy and incredibly moreish but this wasn’t the case here. Again a real shame as the ribs were cooked well but were let down by the all important sauce.
After our meal we used the screen to call our waiter for the bill. The restaurant was getting very busy and we ended up waiting 20 minutes to pay and leave and missed our train back home. Wendy did apologise for the wait and it wasn’t her fault at all but we did feel that the technology didn’t serve the purpose of adding speed and convenience to our dining experience on this occasion.
Main dishes are around £15-17 and unfortunately on this visit I can’t say that the prices are fully justified. The portions are of a good size but the dishes themselves were quite hit or miss.
This is a new menu with a lot of new dishes so of course there are bound to be some teething problems. It was a shame as I was excited to try the menu and see if Inamo could once again surprise me with tasty dishes and a fun dining experience as it did five years ago.
Sadly, the technology that the restaurant prides itself on felt a little dated and ended up being more of an inconvenience when ordering and paying.
So is Inamo still an innovative restaurant? From my latest experience I would have to say no. Along with a new menu that hopefully improves once in full swing I feel Inamo needs to improve its interactive elements and bring it up to date with the HD and 4K ready screens that we are so used to these days and they certainly have to make it more user friendly. If these changes are made then perhaps it can once again provide a fun and memorable dining experience. I still have hopes for Inamo and hope it can once again be at the forefront of dining innovation.
Address: 134-136 Wardour St, Soho, London W1F 8ZP
Closest tube station: Tottenham Court Road