Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to eat at Inamo in Covent Garden with a £30 voucher. While we did end up spending double that without even trying – budget diners may want to take note – it was an excellent meal and a fabulous experience overall.
As soon as we headed to our table we could see that this pan-Asian restaurant was going to be a lot of fun. The tables themselves are a huge part of the experience, with projectors and magic pointers that allow you to draw, play games, and change your “tablecloth” right on the surface of the table itself.
The whole venue is very dark, as you can no doubt guess from the poor quality of the photos. We did our best but the lighting was very, very low, no doubt to help the projectors stand out. It was a little odd, especially as the food then ended up painted in the colours of the tablecloth, but it wasn’t too disorientating – just hard to see.
We were placed at a table for four with another couple – as the tables are put into set configurations and can’t be moved they do warn that this may happen with larger groups, but we didn’t expect it with just the two of us. After the other couple left, with empty tables to our right and left, we weren’t disturbed again and other diners were seated at those spots. It did take away some of the feeling of privacy in the beginning – it’s a little disappointing when you book for a table for two, so there could perhaps be some improvement in the booking process and whether you are notified that you could be sharing at the time you have chosen.
Now, onto the food. When you want to order, you have a tablet on your table with the full menu of both food and drinks. You choose what you want and it is added to a list on the right-hand side. When you’re satisfied with what you have chosen, you press send and your server prepares the order. It’s a very high-tech way of ordering and it is fun to do – I’m glad that they provide the tablet rather than making you download an app on your own device! The whole process was very smooth and we had no problems with the orders, although it is a bit annoying that the prices of the food or the contents of your previous orders aren’t displayed in the order section. We ended up counting everything up one by one, which was a bit laborious with scrolling up and down the screen to work it out – we always like to know how much we’re spending while we order because, as food bloggers, we can have a temptation to go crazy and buy everything on the menu!
We went for a number of dishes, which are listed here:
Seaweed Salad (v)£4.45
Thin, crunchy Wakame seaweed, lightly dressed and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Sizzling Chilli Tofu (v)£7.95
Crispy tofu with mixed bell peppers and onion, glazed in Korean BBQ sauce, with crushed chilli and served with a sizzle.
Crispy Vegetable Tempura Maki (v)£6.95
Vegetables in a light tempura rolled with velvety avocado, and drizzled with creamy house mayo. 6 delicious pieces.
Thai Red Curry (v)£13.95
Creamy coconut Thai red curry with butternut squash & fresh vegetables, garnished with coriander & red chilli. Served with steamed rice.
The sizzling chilli tofu was far and away the best of the dishes, we can both agree on that. It was absolutely delicious, and each piece of tofu was crispy and firm on the outside, but nicely smooth on the inside. The Korean BBQ sauce was fantastic and full of flavour, not too spicy at all. I’m learning Korean at the moment, so I can say this: 맛있어요! (Delicious!). Some of the tofu had stuck to the bottom of the pan by the time we were trying to pick it up, which did lead to a lot of scraping with our chopsticks. Incidentally, as I learn Korean we’re trying a lot of traditional Asian dishes, so look out for those recipes (including bulgogi tofu) coming soon.
Eating here would probably be a challenge if you’ve never used chopsticks, by the way. They are the only item of cutlery readily available. As a nod to the common Asian practice of sharing dishes between the table, everything comes out as soon as it is ready and you have your own square side plate to serve yourself with.
The maki was a bit of a challenge to eat as the tempura was huge! Otherwise, it was pretty tasty, although it didn’t stand out as much as the BBQ tofu. The seaweed salad wasn’t the Chinese kind of salad you may be thinking of: rather, imagine thinly sliced green vegetables kept soft and juicy in a sauce for more of an idea of what it tastes like. That was very handy as an antidote to the hot Thai red curry, as each bite of seaweed seemed to sweep the palate clean of any spice.
One thing I will certainly say is that the Inamo dishes all struck it right in terms of combining spice with flavour, rather than sacrificing flavour in favour of spice.
I washed it all down with some lychee juice which also did very nicely at controlling the heat, although I also needed three glasses of tap water by the end! We were absolutely stuffed full but the dessert menu was beckoning – at least, one item in particular:
Baileys & Oreo Cheesecake£6.95
Velvety chocolate cheesecake flavoured with creamy Baileys, and crunchy Oreo cookies. Go on. You know you want to.
Well, we did want to. Pretty good job too, because it was probably the best moment of the whole night. Soft, creamy Baileys “cheesecake” – it was probably a little more like a mousse both with the texture and the way it was presented, with globs of the Baileys mixture interspersed with globs of ground-up cookie mixture. There wasn’t any Oreo filling and there certainly weren’t any whole Oreos, but you could taste that they were the right type of biscuit at least.
It was all topped off with an alcohol-soaked glace cherry which was quite literally the cherry on top, adding a delicious third flavour which complemented everything well.
The meal was very smooth overall with no problems or hitches, and we were certainly full when we left. There is a discretionary service charge added automatically to your bill, which seems a shame given the whole business model is almost dedicated to eliminating your servers as much as possible.
As a final verdict, I’d probably say come for the experience more than the food. Only two dishes were really memorable, particularly since I could barely see them in front of me, which is always a bit of a disconcerting experience as a vegetarian – I like to inspect my food so I can be sure the kitchen hasn’t given me meat by accident. We had a lot of fun playing the games, although mine wasn’t quite working at first, and it’s worth a go just to see what an interactive restaurant experience feels like. Overall we enjoyed it, but would we come back again? Only if I had money burning a hole in my pocket and wanted to play games while I ate. Or maybe just to pop in for dessert.