Dining at Zauo restaurant can be frustrating at times, but not for the reasons you may think. Zauo is a restaurant like no other. Before eating the food here, you actually have to catch it. Well, no one is really forcing you into it, but it’s part of the fun. It’s also somewhat frustrating if you are not a ninja fishing master Japanese kid. As they specify in their instructions – “If you eat fish, You had better fishing than you order from the menu. Please challenge by all means”. Whatever that means.
Zauo has various locations in Tokyo (+ other cities in Japan) and we visited their Shinjuku branch for a weekday dinner. While located in the popular Shinjuku area, the restaurant is situated in the more business side of the neighborhood, so there’s not much to see around. Although we made reservations for 20pm, we arrived a bit earlier and they were happy to sit us. The minute we walked in we saw this big boat in the middle of the room, with a few tables scattered inside. We crossed our fingers our waiter will lead us to our table on the boat, and so it was!
From the boat we had a great view to the “river” surrounding it, so we could witness all the little fishing guru kiddies. Our nice waiter, which had pretty decent English, brought us the menu as well as “Explains of Fishing” paper. Basically you get a fishing pole for free, buy fishing bait for 100yen and start working on getting dinner on the table. The bonus – if you catch your dinner, you’ll pay less!
Some fish require bait but for some you just need to use the hook. The different types are separated in the river and if you are not sure what to do – just look to your right and down – and try to imitate what that little Japanese kid is doing. Once you catch the fish you are not allowed to release it back to the river. One of the staff members will come and ask you how do you like the fish. There are several options – sashimi, grill, boiled, deep fried and minced raw fish. The type of cooking depends of the fish. In addition there are some extras such as sauteed with butter and deep fried with breadcrumbs.
We ordered Sparkling Melon Sake and Sparkling Strawberry Sake by Hana No Mai, along with appetizer – some kind of tofu, we didn’t really like (¥324 per serving). Sipping our tasty sake and planning our fishing strategy, I’ve started looking through the big menu, which conveniently was all in English.
Before ordering I tried my luck with fishing. To sum it up – it didn’t go very well. It was my first time fishing, and a few minutes led me to an understanding – fishing and me weren’t meant to be. I went back to the fishing boat and practiced what I do best – order from the menu.
The first dish to arrive was the Steamed Squid Dim Sum (¥540 for 3 pieces).
Then we got the other two dishes I ordered – Assorted Sashimi (¥1280) and Fried Budock (¥550).
Everything was fresh and delicious and we felt the amount of food was quite generous considering the price. Indeed it’s not the cheapest restaurant in Tokyo, but you obviously pay partially for the experience as well. After eating these 3 dishes, we were pretty full but Opher wanted to try his luck at fishing again. We wanted to go for the smaller fish so we won’t end up with a big plate of fish we couldn’t handle. But guess what? He caught Sea Bream (¥2970), the second most expensive fish on the menu. Not only that, but turns out that the employee in charge of triumphantly banging the drums every time someone catches a fish only favors the little Japanese kids. Hmm… that came out wrong.
We were offered to choose two different ways of cooking so we went with deep fried and grilled.
To sum it up – we really enjoyed our time at Zauo. The food was not overly priced as we expected and the atmosphere was fun and laid back, much akin to actual fishing. If you’re looking for a cool themed restaurant in Tokyo and are not afraid to publicly expose your shameful fishing skills – I would highly recommend going here.