Ever since I read a newspaper review of inamo I’d wanted to go there more than any other restaurant in London. The review spoke of giant tables that were touch screens where you could order food, play games while you waited and modify the ambience of your environment. Being a geek who loves to eat out how could I resist such technological innovation? Last night I went there with a friend and I wasn’t disappointed.
Inamo is striking from the moment you enter as you’re bathed in light of various shades of colours. It is relatively contained and close knit in its size and that makes the kaleidoscopic ambience all the more effective. You begin to feel as though you’ve been removed from your rather conventional and conforming culinary existence to another world that questions your notions of what a dining experience can offer. After you’re seated, as the waitress arrives, you realise that the rather striking pattern on your table is in fact an image being imposed by an overhead projector neatly concealed to blend in with the superb interior decor. She asks if you’ve been before and takes you through the touch screen menu system.
Traditionally one is used to doing absolutely nothing other than turning the pages of a drab menu but in inamo as the waitress leaves you’re forced to learn the system and use it to browse the menu and order yourself. This is a key start to the inamo experience and by throwing you into the deep end it forces you to engage with the third entity that will be dining with you throughout your stay. It takes merely a few seconds to become familiar after which you’re exploring every little corner of the system. You can order food and drink, change your ambience by choosing from a large selection of images and patterns, check on your food using the chef cam and best of all engage in a game of battleships with your dining partner as you wait for your food!
The experience of choosing your food and drink is in stark contrast to elsewhere. Rather than reading about your dish in less than descriptive terms, in inamo, when you select an item to order you see immediately a full size image of what that dish would look like served on your table. Very soon the challenge is reduced to what you would prefer to eat rather than trying first to interpret and visualise the options available. The items to order are split into small dishes, large dishes, desserts and drinks each of which may be split into further options making it very easy to navigate.
Our personal order was partly influenced by those dishes recommended by one of the reviews I’d read. From small dishes we ordered chicken shisho wraps, Vietnamese spring rolls, crispy tofu and mushroom parcels and from large dishes – marinated quaill and chilean sea bass. From my experience the food and drink could not be faulted. Every item was distinctly fresh, succulent and provided an excellent complement of flavours even to the inexperienced diner.
Overall inamo comes highly recommended. It is expensive but it redefines the genre of modern dining and offers an engaging and complete dining and sensory experience. If you want no engagement with the venue, want to be left alone to your own agenda of chat and prefer a more quiet and conventional environment inamo is not for you. Otherwise inamo is unique and commands recognition.
P.S. Went to Cha cha moon in Oxford Circus recently which is also very good. Every food item is £3.50 and sizeable offering excellent value for money. It is the Hong Kong equivalent of Wagamama and follows the same ethos of a rapid turnaround with customers. Overall highly recommended too.