Saturday, 2 May 2015

Inamo's sharing Asian Tapas

I am a grazer at heart. Much as I love sitting down for dinner or eating the occasional extremely extravagant "tasting menu", I love nibbles and I love sharing my food. 

And why not? You get to sample far more of the menu, you don't need to worry whose dish comes out ready first and you get the excuse for a highly informal evening. "Sharing is caring", as they say. I couldn't agree more.

So when Inamo St James asked me to try their Asian Tapas dishes, I was very keen to give it a go. 

Inamo want to give their diners a unique experience inspired by Japan and the far east which is both ancient and modern. At St James, there is a large Zen water feature and green plant wall among large bamboo rods making up the seating areas. These calming traditional features are juxtaposed against modern technology. As a result, our dishes were ordered using their special interactive tables. These tables have a little mouse pad built in; you can have a full size picture of the dish beamed onto your empty plate before you order, so you can truly see if the look of the food appeals to you first. 

Once we had checked out the menu, in particular focusing on some of the new dishes added to the menu, we started ordering. They describe their food as "Asian Fusion", but I would say that Pan-Asian might be more accurate. 

First up was this dish:

Korean chicken wings6.95)
Fried chicken wings, glazed in Korean BBQ sauce, with a sprinkling of baked desiccated fine coconut.

Some people love wings, others do not. I remember talking about these little hand held pieces of heaven to someone who looked at me strangely and simply said "I don't know why you bother with them; they're too much work, they're so fiddly."

I find that the flavour you get from the meat is worth the faff. Thankfully the staff at Inamo gave us each a finger bowl of hot water to deal with the inevitable mess. 

These wings were small but delicious. The sauce was bold, spicy and full of heat. There has been no dumbing down of the typical flavours and reliance on chili expected from Korean food. This was a very promising start!

Sweet Mango Pork Belly (£7.50)
Crisp fried slices of pork belly, glazed in Korean BBQ sauce. Served with sweet mango and fresh daikon.

These slim slices of pork belly appear insubstantial at first. Meat loving Him Indoors who accompanied me was a little disappointed at the size of the belly pieces at first. However, the slices are intentionally slim; to allow the outside to achieve some caramelisation without the middle remaining completely raw. The pork was cooked skilfully and we enjoyed the contrasts of sweet, sour and spicy. The other contrasts present were of texture; the slightly chewy meat against the soft mango and delicate crunch of the daikon. If the portion isn't enough for you, you can always order another!

Seared yuzu scallop7.95)
Succulent seared scallop in miso, served with cress and yuzu.

Sometimes I fail miserably in my task as a food reviewer, because I honestly have no idea what was in the sauce for these scallops. A wonderful balance of strong flavours, there was a gutsy sour tang with gentle heat and some sweetness to top it all off. If I'd had bread, I would probably have mopped it all up. It is often thought scallops need mild flavours, but this dish worked very well indeed with its bold approach. 

Squid & Spring Onion Dim Sum (£5.00)
3 pieces of delicately steamed dim sum filled with tender squid & spring onion, served with tangy Thai mango & chili relish.

The dumplings had a thin skin with good bite. I find that sometimes dumplings have a thick skin which can be a bit cloying and over filling. The squid filling was a good amount, and only just cooked, which is how I like it. The dipping sauce "relish" was something of a disappointment, since it didn't add to the dish. The flavours were too similar to some of the others experienced during our meal. Perhaps going for a more old school approach and simply serving with good quality soy sauce or a Chinese style warm dipping sauce would bring out squid's tenderness better. 

Beef tataki (£7.50)
A classic Japanese dish. Beef lightly seared on the outside, left rare in the middle, then thinly sliced & served with Ponzu sauce.

The picture is obviously not a very helpful one. But if I had taken the picture after removing the topping, I would have ruined the presentation. I enjoyed the pinky rare middle of the beef, only lightly cooked and shown the pan. The sauce had acidic tang from vinegar, citrus fruitiness, and salty soy. Don't trust my photograph, trust my opinion, this is a tasty dish which isn't finger food, but perfect to share with chopstick at the ready!

Nigiri Set (8 Pieces) 14.95)
Chef’s selection of the freshest fish served on sushi rice with wasabi and soy sauce. 8 pieces in total. 

I find sushi hard to resist, hence our ordering of this dish. Our selection included salmon, mackerel, sea bass and tuna. We had generous slices of fish on top of the sushi rice. The fish was fresh and delicate.

Korean Lamb (£15.45)
Fresh lamb, bathed in a sweet and sour marinade, then grilled. Served with tangy sauce and kimchee salad.

A good sized portion for the money, generous sized cutlets trimmed for ease of eating; just pick up and nibble! There could have been a little more chili heat to this dish, since the marinade and sauce were very mild. The lamb was flavoursome and grilled with care.

We had a very enjoyable meal and found that even though food is ordered using the interactive tables, this is not a device to skimp on good service. The staff were still happy to offer information and recommendations on food and drink, and they were attentive to the needs of diners. Definitely not the same thing as the self checkout in the supermarket! 

The restaurant has a fun atmosphere, and the sharing concept means that there are chatty little gangs of people sitting around tables enjoying chat and food. It makes for a friendly vibe. 

I would definitely return and bring friends for an evening out. I would intend to sample more of the "Inamo Classic" dishes from the menu, as so many of them seemed very interesting and innovative, but I had simply run out of tummy space. 

Inamo St James
4-12 Lower Regent Street
020 7484 0500

Opening Hours:
Mon-Wed 12pm - 3pm & 5pm - 11pm
Thurs 12pm - 11.30pm
Fri-Sat 12pm - 12.30am
Sun 12pm - 10.30pm

Snigdha and Him Indoors dined as guests of Inamo. We have received no payment in return for this review. 

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