Review of 'Inamo'

Before I visited I had a sneaking suspicion that I had been here before as reading up on Inamo it sounded an awful lot like a place we had visited on South Regent street that recently closed when the building was redeveloped. What I remember from that visit was that the tables were interactive screens that you could use to order food, watch the chefs via a webcam, play games or just change the pattern displayed on the table. What I also remember was that the service was not great, the food was OK but not spectacular and it was expensive (we visited with a half price dinner deal otherwise the cost would have made us steer clear). It was more gimmick than substance.

Well, my suspicions proved to be correct. This IS the same restaurant I visited when it was located near Piccadilly Circus but they have just re-opened near Covent Garden tube station. Again, I had another discount so we decided to give it a try. So, have they managed to address my concerns from my first visit? No, not really. Still more gimmick than substance and, to make matters worse the ordering system is a nightmare.

The restaurant is located quite out of the way down a back-alley that can easily be missed if you don't happen to be looking down the alley when you walk by. In the rather darkly lit interior our table for four was shared with another couple who arrived a bit later into our visit. The table was quite tight and very socially awkward as we attempted to have separate conversations and pretending not to hear the other couple.

So, the ordering. The tables now have been simplified in that you can only do simple things like change the pattern displayed or watch the cooks via the webcam. Ordering is now done via an iPad which is a bit awkward at a small table with four people (two couples sharing) - Where do you put the thing while you are eating? Indeed, after we had ordered a few sharing dishes and they arrived all at once we had no room at all to put the iPad so we ended up simply holding it in our lap or impinging on our neighbour's personal space to make room - At one point we were using our two massive plates (Why? By themselves these take up about 50% of the table top!) to put the sharing dishes on and reaching across the table to pick things off from opposite. Why they couldn't either reinstate the ordering system on the table or put some sort of holder on the table, I don't know - Perhaps if they also did not bring all the food at once? When you place your order (press the button on the iPad screen, perhaps several times to get it to work) you have to sit and wait for a few minutes until a waiter comes around to repeat your order back to you and send it to the kitchen. How this makes the ordering process simpler I have no idea…

Anyway, for the food, it is a mixture of different Asian influences. There are Japanese dishes such as sushi and noodles, Chinese dim sum assortments, and some “fusion” food. Inamo suggest that you share dishes which generally works out alright. It is a smattering of influences that does not really have a particular focus particularly because it has so many things on offer. Concentrating on fewer dishes might be better. No dishes on the menu really stand out except perhaps for the “Wagyu Sliders and Wasabi Fries”.

We had the “Crispy Vegetable Tempura” (£10) - Very tasty, not too greasy and, nicely, not overcooked. “Soft Shell Crab Maki Rolls” (£8.45) - Delicious and I found I had eaten most of it before my companion had finished her first piece! The crab was perfectly cooked with a lovely balance of flavours in the roll. “Tune and Avocado Hosamaki” (£5.50) - Forgettable but ok. On the plus side it had a bit of spice in with the tuna and avocado which lifted the flavour a bit but otherwise, just a plain maki like you might get at Yo! “Miso Soup” (£3.75) - Pretty good with lots of “bits” (tofu, seaweed, etc) inside served in the typical small miso soup bowl. Gone far too quickly. Trying a bit of fusion we next had the “Wagyu Sliders and Wasabi Fries” (£19 - yes, £19 for two small sliders and a small bit of fries) - Very tasty slider burgers with perfectly fresh, not soggy, tiny brioche bun and a delicious slightly sweet sauce that went down the front of me when I was eating it. If anything the sauce slightly risked overwhelming the wonderfully meaty taste of the tender beef. I thought the fries were not very tasty or, at least, tasting slightly of wasabi but not really flavourful but my companion said that this was nonsense and they had a lot of flavour for her - Oh well.

The sushi is certainly a cut above the big chains like Yo! Sushi and Miso but not quite as good as the high end (Aqua Kyoto, etc). Very fresh and simply prepared.

During our visit of about 45 minutes I think we saw about 5 or 6 staff visiting our table - Never the same person twice - So it was not really possible to have any sort of on-going conversation with anyone. The staff were certainly polite but not exactly conversationalists - Just delivering the food and taking our order. Nothing more, nothing less.

The atmosphere of the place is also not terribly conducive to spending hours over food. Very loud, dark surroundings with the bright tables in your eyes while you are eating. Certainly the staff were not encouraging us to stay either.

Without our discount it would have come in at £60 which includes two drinks - A tea and a glass of red wine. Perhaps not too expensive but it just seems that way…

So, still gimmicky. Ordering is difficult and clunky. The food is good. Eating experience is awkward with the crowded tables. Price is about average. Service is average and not exactly inspired.

Will we go back? Perhaps if they have another deal on to visit.

Rating:

Review Date: 2016-01-14


Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 11-14 Hanover Place, London WC2E 9JP ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Covent Garden

Location: London (England) - Covent Garden

Map:

 

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Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7484 0500

URL: http://www.inamo-restaurant.com/