It was either Japanese or Chinese for the weekend and we decided to go for the former. Having just one more booking to be made at Toptable to be eligible for a free meal, there's some incentive to go for just that. Since we were to go for the Jan Gassaert exhibition at National Gallery Sainsbury Wing in the afternoon, it had to be either in the vicinity. After browsing for a bit, we made a booking for Inamo, which sounded remotely Japanese. With an average Toptable rating of 7.7 and the offer of a £8.50 bento lunch set, it couldn't be too bad, could it?
The warning signs were all there when we stepped in later that afternoon: loud thumping music greeted us when we pushed through the door, fusion settings with dim lights and various coloured tabletops. Driven by the fact that we had a light breakfast and a growling stomach, we persisted.
The place was almost filled when we were there. Always a good sign, I supposed. And we were led to a table sandwiched between two tables with groups of four. Instead I pointed to another table just next to the window, which was lying empty.
"Oh, but you can't order from one of the seat as it isn't working," the waitress replied. When she saw my perplexed look, she helpfully explained what she meant. Apparently, Inamo has got this nifty touch device inbuilt into their tables where customers can order dishes from. Select an item and a picture of it would be beamed down from a projector overhanging the table onto your plate. If you like what you see, click to confirm your order.
We settled for the window seat despite having my dish ordering device not working. Later on I realised that without one of those, I was literally emasculated; the same device also allows you to change the background of your table (that explained the different coloured tabletops), play interactive games with your fellow diner (no joy for our table in this case) and even call for the bill or tune in to the kitchen camera if you feel like spying on the cooks. To be honest, I am not sure what else that pointy thing can do as Wife was having all the fun after some initial difficulty getting used to it. But she did eventually order us two of the bento lunch sets.
The bento lunch set (£8.50) came quite soon after. There was a sign outside Inamo promising that it'll arrive within 15 minutes of ordering but I assure you it did feel much sooner. All along, I got this lingering feeling that Inamo was a tad gimmicky. It felt as if the flashing lights, loud music and techno vibes were to distract you from something more important - the food. When my bento set finally arrived, it confirmed my suspicion.
The bento set came in the form of tamarind duck slices, gyozas, edamame and praew salad. The slices of duck tasted not only bland but powdery to the palate, which meant that it could be fresher. There was a awfully sweet and sour sauce provided at the centre of the bento box that could only be meant to complement the duck. Even then, I cringed at its taste.
If that was bad, the gyozas were worse. Somehow along the way, someone decided that the gyozas were to be served immersed in an almost sour vinegar based sauce. The result was a burnt gyoza top and a sour dumpling bottom. It tasted like xiao long bao that has been immersed in vinegar over a period of time. Much like something that one would do to mask meat that had gone bad.
We sought solace in the praew salad, which was refreshing and edamame with sea salt halfheartedly sprinkled on it. Oh, and the accompanying sushi rice as well.
Perhaps it was only us as we couldn't help notice that the family next to us were happily lapping up whatever served to them and were praising it to high heavens. Then again, they were scooping up rice from their bowls onto their plate and using their chopsticks on it. But I must say that they were handling their chopsticks much more elegantly than me.
Anyway, if you are going for the food, give Inamo a wide berth. Otherwise, it is a great place to
- bring your teenagers (they can entertain themselves with the touch table),
- go for awkward first dates when you probably want minimal conversation,
- hang out after a few drinks when you don't really care what you eat because you know it's going to come out the same way soon after
I sent out a tweet about the same immediately after the meal. t_a_i immediately replied,"It's (Inamo) all abt the interactive table there... food? No." My thoughts exactly.
The Toby Carvery, South Croydon
9 hours ago