In a “paraphrased” adage, if the Japanese-Korean fusion/hybrid restaurant/cafe/streetfood stall/hole in the wall is not staffed with Japanese-Korean fusion/hybrid…erm… people? Then you should probably move on.
This is wrong. You should still have given the Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant hybrid place a chance.
By the way, this also counts for any other kind of restaurant/cafe you could probably think of.
As part of the Zuma group, this Soho site is the second Inko Nito restaurant, the first opened in Los Angeles. And as a robatayaki place, I expected to be eating a lot of grilled foods (robatayaki apparently being Japanese for “fireside cooking”)
As we walked through the restaurant two things become apparent. One, A LOT of wood went into the creation of this place. Two, the massive grill at the centre of the room, surrounded by chefs. A grill, using incredibly pure charcoal called binchotan that cook at temperatures of 1, 000 degrees. Just don’t ask me if that’s C or F… I believe it’s F, 1,000 degrees C might just melt the people around it.
There’s also an open kitchen at the back, but sorry. It was all about that grill!
We were given a choice of seating arrangement, with high tables, communal tables, low tables, counter seats by the grill all available. Well not all available, we were told some seats/tables weren’t available because they had been booked. We rocked in without a reservation/booking because that’s just how baller we are (dear god I just used the word baller).
Personally, I wanted to sit by the grill, my friend, however, wanted the communal table. And somehow, I lost that debate.
Perusing the menu, you can see the obvious Japanese and Korean influences on the food here. Case in point, the first thing on the menu was “kimchi”. The second being “miso”.
However, we were only interested in the middle section of the menu, headed “Robata”.
The premise here is the “sharing plates” philosophy that I’m seeing more and more (and more and more) restaurants do (eg Tempur, and Jidori). We were recommended that we order 3 or so dishes each.
Which, in all honesty, suited me perfectly. It meant that we could order 6 plates of grilled meaty goodness. Although my mate would comment that such a system was probably great for a dinner date. Not so much for a group of friends… Not sure if I agree but..
“All of column B please”
Food is brought out as and when it is prepared. Which means depending on what you ordered will likely dictate how long you spend there.
Now to keep this relatively short, and because I really do not have the vocabulary to praise each and every dish we got in a unique way here is the TL:DR
Everything was bloody gorgeous.
Seriously, I even took pictures to prove it!
Cobia coller. Cooked in brown butter, and served in a ponzu sauce, with lemon. Cobia is a fish (yes we had to Google it). This cut is basically just behind the gills of the fish (it’s a large fish). The challenge we had with this is, how to get all the flesh off of it with just chopsticks. I’m pretty sure we could have just swallowed our pride and ask for a fork (or knife), but we would not be defeated! And it was worth it.
Chicken Yakitori, which can be the litmus test for any place claiming to do grilled Japanese food. Soft, tender, glazed with the tare sauce that I wanted and expected.
Pork Belly! Woo hoo! Glazed in a Japanese whiskey… glaze (really should have asked the brand). And served with a lovely chilli sauce providing a nice kick, with sesame seeds for texture
Beef Cheek. This was, by far, the crowning dish of the meal. Melt in your mouth soft! So much so that even my, admittedly rubbish, shredding skills made quick work of this. Take a lettuce leaf, add some daikon, and a little chilli sauce. Munch. Pretty sure, I had some blissed-out look on my face at this stage.
Finally, the chicken wings came last (not sure why). And while it had a lovely, salty, sour vibe going for it, it was not going to live up to the beef cheek we just had.
With all this, we would have been ready for dessert. In fact, we were ready for dessert. But with only one item for dessert, we decided that there are other options available in and around Soho! We happily paid the bill, and wandered off to find cake.
After they let me take a few close-up shots of the grill!
And I instantly regretted not getting the bone-marrow *sigh* Next time then.
Address: 55 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 9QS