It’s not often that food and technology come together in a restaurant. Most restaurants are happy sticking with the tried and tested method of menus, waiters, and wine lists. This is understandable as unless the technology aspect of the experience is well executed it can make for disaster. So when we heard of Inamo, a restaurant that had embraced a completely different way of using technology to offer something totally unique, we headed on down to Soho to give it a go.
Inamo is located on Wardour Street, just a short walk from the main part of Soho. It serves Pan Asian cuisine with dishes ranging from Thailand, Korea, Japan and China. The unique aspect of Inamo is their interactive ordering system. Rather than be handed a menu, and feel pressured to order while a waiter looms over you, the tables in Inamo are turn into an interactive menu.
Using the small dipped section as a mouse track pad, you are able to scroll through the menu options, add them to your selection and, once you are done, send your order straight to the kitchen. It is a well executed approach: the menu text is easy to read, the prices for all items are available, and when you select a dish, its image is projected directly onto your plate so you have an idea of what the dish will look like.
We arrived to our table around 17:30, and found the restaurant to be quite busy. We were shown to our table, and the waiter warmly explained the process for ordering, and adjusted our tables and projector for us before disappearing. The venue is an adequately sized restaurant, and the space is used well, but didn’t appear to have a cloakroom – normally not an issue, but two of us were sitting on a long bench against a wall. The lighting was dimmed quite heavily so that the menu appeared clearly on the table.
After some time exploring the different menus, and extras we decided it might be good to order some food. Inamo specialises in Asian cuisine, so as you would expect the menu does lean towards sushi, seafood, and fish, but with a good selection of meat choices as well. When the waiter had shown us to the table, he advised us that they would normally recommend people to have two small dishes each and one large dish, and then share them amongst each other. Inamo don’t operate a traditional starters/mains arrangement – you order the food and it will arrive when it is ready. There isn’t a wait between courses here.
It took us a while, but eventually we settled on our choices. Chicken satay, squid and spring onion dim sum, seared salmon maki, baby pork ribs, soft shell crab maki, miso and yuzu salmon, beef rendang, and duck with pancakes.
Once the food order had been sent, and our drinks had arrived, we settled down to wait for the food to appear. This mainly involved exploring the ‘extras’ section, such as ‘Chef Cam’, and using the restaurant map to find a path to the facilities while friends played a game of Battleships. We also made friends with the couple who were sat next to us – nothing like a stray edamame bean flying across the table to break the ice.
When the food arrived it nearly all came together, only the beef rendang and duck took longer, which we were grateful for as the table suddenly got very busy very quickly. Within minutes we were leaning over each other to grab bits of everything. The squid dim sum was demolished before the plate had settled – my friends tell me it was delicious. The chicken satay, and the baby pork ribs were both cooked to perfection – both meats sliding off the skewer/bone. Both portions of maki were plentiful, and moreish, with the seared salmon maki being a favourite.
The larger dishes all eventually arrived were equally tasty. The beef rendang was thick, and creamy with beautifully thick chunks of beef; the mizo and yuzu salmon was lovely and flaky with a delicious tang to it; and the duck pancakes were served with a unique herb and salad mix which included mint, giving what can be a dry meal a refreshing edge.
Once we devoured every piece of food that we had ordered, we again used the interactive table to order the bill. For eight dishes, two sides, and three drinks the total was just a little over £100, which we all agreed was perfectly reasonable. There was the discretionary service charge of 10% added to the bill, which we paid, but did spark a debate over if you could charge for service when the service itself was minimal. After paying the bill, and our table being cleared, we were then asked to vacate the seats as there were more people waiting in the downstairs bar to be seated. We’d obviously spent too much time playing with the table before ordering.
We all agreed, as did the couple next to us, that removing the waiter appearing at your table every few minutes to ask if you are ready, alleviated the feeling of being rushed into deciding what you want. Inamo offers something unique, and there is every chance that it would be positively recommended based on the food alone, but the ordering system offers a completely different experience.
Inamo has two locations in London: on Wardour Street in Soho, and the other, a larger venue, over at Lower Regent Street in St James.
To find out more and make a reservation, visit the Inamo website.