When true hedonists find themselves hankering after a spot of pan-Asian grub on a Saturday night, something more spectacular is called for than a greasy carton of chicken chow mein from the local takeaway. And it doesn’t get much more spectacular than Inamo St. James, the newly opened oriental-fusion restaurant that combines cutting-edge technology with some of the most delicious food that these particular hedonists have ever tasted. The glorious thing about London is how quickly one can go from culinary rags to riches as you tread the cobbled streets; 8pm found us killing time in a Dunkin’ Doughnuts off Piccadilly Circus, choking down the foulest, most expensive coffee we had ever had the misfortune to purchase. Words cannot describe the horror. Yet by 8.30pm, we were seated in the opulent surroundings of Inamo St. James, being introduced to the high-tech joys of E-Table, the world’s first interactive ordering system. Such fun! The overhead projection technology allows diners to order their food from the table-top menu, as well as choose from a range of virtual ‘tablecloths’, use ‘chef-cam’ to watch the chefs working in the kitchen, book taxis, check out local clubs for some post-prandial pleasure, and even play games such as Battleship (particularly useful if your fellow diners turn out to be total bores; you can always take out your frustration by firing holes in their submarines).
Even if the food had turned out to be mediocre, the table-top fun alone would have made the evening worthwhile, but Inamo St James is no high-tech gimmick. As we perused the menu, virtual images of the dishes were projected onto our plates, tempting us with mouthwatering visions of what form our meal could take if we pressed the ‘order’ button. Once our orders had been placed, service was speedy, and amongst our many delicious dishes, the baby pork ribs stand out as particularly memorable: a beautifully presented Jenga-esque tower of sticky pork that melted off the bone, covered in an oozing, unctuous XO sauce that, armed only with chopsticks, we were eventually forced to polish off with our fingers. The vegetable tempura was, quite simply, the best we had ever tasted (we could have easily handled twice the amount of sauce), while the prize for the most elegant dish belonged to the cute single scallop with its herb dressing, served in a shell ‘floating on an ocean of blue sea salt’. The baby crispy prawns were also beautifully presented in a little wooden crate reminiscent of seaside summer holidays, with a fruity Thai mango relish for dipping.
Following this feast, our thoughts turned to sweeter treats, and if we thought that the evening couldn’t get any better, we had reckoned without the dessert and cocktail menus. The Ichigo cocktail was a particular highlight, a sophisticated, not-too-sweet concoction of Bourbon with fresh strawberry puree, mint, wild strawberry liquor and a surprising afternote of Aztec chocolate bitter. Our beautifully presented desserts were the visual and gastronomical cherry on the cake: a smooth, creamy vanilla crème brulee with strawberry and lemongrass coulis, and a green Pandan macaroon filled with Yuzu-flavoured white chocolate mousse with a lemongrass and coconut sorbet, artistic blobs of milk chocolate sauce and electric-green spikes of spun sugar. The first bites were enough to silence us; when the time comes for these hedonists to shuffle off their mortal coil, so to speak, we can think of no better end than to drown in a sea of Yuzu-flavoured white chocolate mousse. And as decadent hedonists across the world will realise, recommendations can’t come much higher than that.
By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough
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