We can’t help but love Inko Nito from the moment we walk into this effortlessly easy-going Japanese restaurant, newly-opened in the heart of Soho.
The staff are winningly-friendly, the vibe is laid-back yet lively and there’s a stylish air to the stripped back, almost minimalist décor… all of which is unsurprising. Not only is this new “robatayaki” part of Zuma and Roka’s terrifically-trendy family of restaurants, it also follows on the heels of a successful launch of the first branch of Inko Nito in downtown L.A…
In keeping with current trends, the new restaurant revolves around counter dining. However, a thoughtful and rather clever twist sees these counter tables arranged across different heights, each providing a unique view of the robata which has pride of place at the centre of the capacious room.
There are also a few tables available for booking ahead – a welcome move, as going by our experience, I’m calling that Inko Nito will be one of the busiest and most buzzing openings this summer…
Cocktails are served on tap and feature a Japanese-inspired twist to the classics. The Inko Spritz makes for an especially zingy start on a summery evening, with a well-crafted combination of watermelon, Aperol, yuzu and sparkling wine!
As for what’s cooking – the charcoal-grill prioritises veggies as much as it does meat and fish, dishing out sharing plates which run rampant with rambunctious textures.
A double-baked potato is a beacon of joy. Baked twice and over two days, it’s capped off with a crisp potato skin, which crunchily breaks apart to reveal an unabashedly decadent layer of mash below. Cauliflower is another delight, elevated by an umami-rich coating of parmesan and panko with garlic soy aioli adding yet more moreish appeal.
In contrast, the grilled aubergine is surprisingly mellow; and while there’s an elegant simplicity to be appreciated of its more subtle flavours, it does fall short of delivering the lusty satisfaction of say, the nasu miso at Roka. For my pescatarian friends, “The Hottie” also fails to live up to its name. The combination of fried shrimp sitting atop sushi rice is from the “Nigaki” section on the menu (featuring a cross between nigiri and maki rolls!), but in this case fails to pack a cohesive punch.
Overall, the hits far outnumber a few misses though, with the tofu proving to be quite a game-changer – the devilishly deep-fried wedges all but melt into a creamy explosion, tempered by a pool of miso mayo! For those who fancy a spicier slant, the Kimchi rice is also unmissable. Assembled with Korean miso, scallions, sesame and egg yolk in a stainless steel tiffin box, it’s vigorously shaken table-side until the ingredients are unified in a gloriously sticky mess…
There’s just the one dessert on the menu at the time of opening, but gosh isn’t it the most intriguing thing. Charred coconut serve overloaded with Japanese granola, soy and pocky (a quintessential Japanese snack involving a chocolate coated biscuit stick)…. it’s sweet, smokey, lush, savoury, crunchy and a whole host of other things all at once.
The unconventional twists to classic Japanese dishes ensures that overall, the experience at Inko Nito is as unique as it is thoroughly enjoyable. If the litmus test of a new (or any) restaurant is whether it invites a revisit, both the friends I’m dining with leave having made reservations to return with others later this week.
Inko Nito, 55 Broadwick Street, Broadwick Street, W1F 9QS