Inko Nito restaurant – a hit in Soho
For any observer of the upmarket London restaurant scene, chef and restaurateur Rainer Becker is a major player. His flagship concepts such as Zuma and Roka have been rolled out internationally to locations as diverse as Hong Kong, Istanbul, Rome, Dubai and New York. So, when I was invited to review his new Soho opening Inko Nito – an unconventional spin on a Japanese Robatayaki – it was a must-do.
London-Unattached was invited as part of a select team of bloggers to give the menu a spin. I couldn’t wait to try the smokey flavours that the ‘robata’ charcoal grill, excitingly positioned in the middle of the restaurant floor, gives the food. Chef Hamish Brown described Inko Nito as being ‘Roka’s little brother’. It’s aimed at millennials with the mission being to deliver the Roka flavour profiles at an affordable price point. The first one opened in LA fairly recently so the concept has been tested but both the feel and menu have been tweaked for a London audience. The majority of the 90 cover restaurant’s seating is at counters with only a few bookable tables. However, the space has been cleverly designed and is remarkably spacious by Soho standards. The décor & interiors are by LA-based Studio Mai. They feature natural woods and tables at different heights – not unlike being inside a benign and nourishing Escher print!
On arrival, we were offered cocktails and some deliciously salty edamame beans spiked with soy, mirin and ginger. How civilised! The Inko Spritz was a blend of watermelon, Aperol, yuzu and sparkling wine. It was refreshing with a citric tang from the yuzu, but not too sweet. The Ichigo Negroni was a fruity take on the classically bitter Italian classic. Gin, plum sake, Merlet strawberry and Campari created a summery spin on the drink – perfect for Wimbledon. The menu is an exercise in clarity, split into three macro sections – kitchen, robata and drinks – with an attractive graphic section explaining some of the more unfamiliar ingredients. After moving on to a bottle of Shirataki Junmai sake with its dry fruity aroma and notes of white chocolate it was time for the feast to begin. Starting with items from the Salad section of the kitchen menu, out came bowls of Romaine lettuce slathered with a sweet and spicy cashew nut miso in a delicious exercise in crunch.
Next up was another lettuce dish- this time it was a grilled baby gem with a mild Korean chilli kick and a sweet onion wafu dressing sweet dressing.
Inko Nito Soho has created its own take on sushi creating the “Nigaki” – roasted nori seaweed with sushi rice and a variety of toppings with the nori gives a solid umami flavour base to these tasty morsels. We tried three; The cali – a blend of tasty Portland crab, avocado, and wasabi tobiko with a yuzu mayo adding a citrus note to the crab. The veggie – avocado, yuzu, garlic, crispy rice which also had a yuzu citrus tang – and The chirashi with the natural oiliness of salmon and yellowtail balanced by the minty spice of wasabi shiso. We had three terrific dishes from the ‘hot’ kitchen menu. Tofu Kara-age with a miso mayo and nori had an amazingly melting interior but a surprisingly crisp exterior – I loved this dish! Crisp and tender Panko fried chicken was lifted by a chilli garlic yoghurt…and The hottie; fried shrimp with a Korean miso was like a sophisticated sesame seed coated, spicy, popcorn shrimp. Our next step on this wonderful journey through the Inko Nito Soho menu was to sample dishes from the robata grill. Chicken wings were given a salt-sour flavour from ume-boshi (pickled ume fruit), spice from green chilli, coolness from mint, and a tangy citrus pepper hit from sansho.
Perfectly cooked scallops were cooked with shiso, sweet soy, shichimi yoghurt and lemon giving a hot spicy afterburn but not compromising the bivalve’s flavour. Unctuous bone marrow with smoked soy, some moreish garlic toast and shallots was not overly smoky or fatty. Tender beef cheek with a sweet and smokey spice flavour came with a hot Korean miso, pickled Daikon, and butter lettuce. Another favourite of mine was the Cobia collar cooked in brown butter ponzu. With a great char flavour, it was perfect for picking up and gnawing. A spicy tender slab of pork belly was caramelised with a chilli, Japanese whisky glaze.
Vegetable dishes from the robata grill were something of a revelation. Grilled aubergine, with garlic, lemon miso and spring onion melted in the mouth. Crisp, garlicky cauliflower, was served with a soy aioli and came in a salty Parmesan panko. And tender stem broccolini covered in an onion wafu dressing was classic. But my favourite was the baked potato blended with a yuzu koshu sour cream and spring onions. It was like a Joel Robuchon mash but with added yuzu! There is only one dessert on the menu but when it’s this good who cares! Charred coconut soft serve cooked in the charcoal, soy, pocky and Japanese granola had a wonderfully smokey crunch. Taking contemporary Japanese flavours and applying them to ‘less premium’ ingredients has allowed Rainer Becker and his team to create a much more democratic and affordable offer that still has the quality that is associated with his restaurants. As the trend against fine dining grows Inko Nito Soho shows he still has his finger on the pulse of the contemporary food scene. It’s a great addition to Soho and it will be a huge hit.
55 Broadwick Street,
London.Tel: 020 3959 2650