What: A casual but upmarket modern Japanese restaurant on the western end of Broadwick Street in Soho that majors on robata-cooked dishes.
Who: Inko Nito is from the same stable as international heavyweights Roka and Zuma and was developed by Rainer Becker and group executive chef Hamish Brown. The brand is being positioned as a more affordable and playful version of Roka that - the pair hope - will attract millennials. This is the second outing for their new concept. Inko Nito launched in downtown Los Angeles late last year and was apparently well received.
The vibe: The feel of the venue is more casual than its two upmarket siblings but the design is just as slick. Conceived by LA-based Studio Mai, the 90-cover space has industrial-looking distressed concrete pillars and original brickwork contrast with light wood tables and chairs. The main kitchen is located right in the middle of the restaurant and is fully open, which allows the bandanna-sporting chefs to serve some of the dishes. The music is upbeat but not especially loud.
The food: Billed as an unconventional take on robatayaki, Inko Nito’s menu is more eclectic than Roka and Zuma. There are a smattering of Korean-influenced plates and some dishes that verge on fusion, including cauliflower with garlic soy aioli and parmesan panko. Brown has developed a new style of sushi for the concept that sees hand-formed rice topped with dressed fish and vegetables and presented on rectangular squares of nori (the idea is to fold it over as you pick it up and eat it like a tiny sushi sandwich). Priced from as little as £4.90 per portion, varieties include Portland crab, avocado, wasabi tobiko and yuzu mayo; and fried shrimp with spicy Korean miso and sesame. Robata grilled dishes include the likes of cobia collar, brown butter ponzu and lemon; and bone marrow, smoked soy, garlic toast and shallot.
And another thing: While it’s not taking on the likes of Wagamama and YO! Sushi, Inko Nito’s price point is considerably lower than Roka and Zuma with the majority of the dishes priced under £10 and many south of a fiver. In fact a couple of the dishes represent exceptional value given the quality of the ingredients and the cooking, not least the ume-boshi, green chilli, mint and sansho chicken wings (£6.60 for six large pieces).