Japan is known for having the world’s freshest seafood, where customers are treated to sushi and sashimi that have been caught off the country’s coast that very morning; some are even lucky enough to dine on fish pulled directly from the sushi shop’s fish tank and prepared on demand. But at Zauo (literally, “The Fish”), a Kanto restaurant chain as unconventional as it is delicious, the word “fresh” doesn’t begin to describe the experience! Why bother fishing for words here, when the pictures speak for themselves?
Zauo has locations through Japan including the Kyushu, Kansai and Tokai regions, but the idea was born in Kanto. Stepping into Zauo Shinjuku, your eyes will be immediately drawn to the sight of a boat docked in the center of the restaurant. Zauo bills itself as a “fishing restaurant,” a phrase that means exactly what you might imagine: You can enjoy actually catching your meal from the fishing pool and having it cooked for you then and there. While attention to thematic detail and uber-fresh seafood are highlights, the real charm of Zauo begins with the experience of fishing for your grub! Of course, there are a few steps you need to follow before casting out your line.
Just to make sure that nothing fishy happens, Zauo’s helpful waitstaff will first explain each step of your adventure after you’re seated. As they have an English menu and guidelines, there is no need to worry about getting tangled up in the intricacies of Japanese language. Since Zauo Shinjuku is located inside a hotel, the clientele has a high percentage of foreign tourists, particularly Americans and Europeans. So how do you catch a bite to eat at Zauo?
After hearing an explanation from the waitstaff, the first thing you need to do is get your supplies and buy bait for the fish. Bait can be purchased cheaply, costing ¥100–200. Rods are sturdy and simple without reels, perfect for novices and “a-fish-ionados” alike. Best of all, they are free of charge!
Once you’re ready, tell the staff which fish you want to catch. Each type is separated into smaller tanks and the price is properly written out so there should be no trouble deciding which one to catch.
Once you choose a fish, it’s then released into the larger tank for your fishing—and hopefully, eating—pleasure! Most people who try their hand at fishing have limited experience, but there’s no need to be a pro-fisherman here. You are likely to catch your fish without a problem, so it’s time to let your line out and see what bites.
Cast, wait, jerk and catch! As you can see, it’s a lot of fun. If you come to Zauo as a group, make sure to get everybody involved in scooping up the fish with the net and pulling it in. It’s a great way to enjoy a bit of teamwork and get the mood going before your fresh fish feast. If you’re trying to catch one fish and end up catching another, talk with the waitstaff who will be happy to help you catch the one that got away. And in the event that you can’t seem to catch anything, ask the staff for some fishing know-how. No matter your level of fishing prowess, your experience is sure to end with a catch—and with it, a great meal.
After catching your fish, hand over your net to the waitstaff, who will make sure that the fish is quickly prepared according to your preferences. Even if there is only one fish between two people with very different tastes, you can rest easy; the staff is more than happy to prepare each half in a different way! In other words, picky eaters and culinary adventurers alike can all enjoy themselves no matter who’s in the group.
Of course, it’s possible to bypass the fishing altogether and order food without casting a line—this sazai shellfish, for example, comes straight off the menu, as do all the fish available at Zauo. However, if you catch your meal yourself, you can get a slight discount: the ¥3,360 sea bream will cost only ¥2,499 if you do the leg work, and a ¥3,990 flounder will cost ¥3,129. Saving money is wonderful, but the experience is about more than prices: Not only will fishing in the heart of Tokyo give you a lifelong memory, but it’s also simply too much fun to pass up! Everyone should plan to drop a line and see what it’s all about.
At Shinjuku’s fishing restaurant “Zauo,” you can enjoy reeling in a fresh catch and then have it prepared as you like it. Just like the restaurant’s slogan “Catch the fun!” says, visitors come for the joy of fishing and stay for the amazing food. Zauo is wonderful for dates, ideal for big groups or family outings, and even great for a single patron looking for a new Tokyo experience. Zauo Shinjuku will ensure a fun-filled event from your first cast to your last bite.