I’ve never minded having to work for my dinner and Japanese cuisine can be very hands-on. There’s something rather satisfying to me about swirling my beef around the hot pot for shabu shabu or getting my vegetables grilled “just so” at a yakiniku restaurant. So imagine my excitment when I stumbled across Zauo, a restaurant where you actually have to fish for your dinner.
The idea – and decor – at Zauo is pretty ingenious. Most customers sit on a raised boat-shaped platform in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by a large tank of fish. (There are also private rooms lining the sides of the restaurant for larger parties.) There’s plenty to choose from off of the multi-page menu but if you want fish, the staff will give you a rod and some bait and you’re free to head down to the tank to catch it yourself.
On the day I went, I stuck my line over the side and within three minutes had hooked myself a sea bream. One of my friends, slightly more discerning in his tastes, spent twenty fruitless minutes attempting to coax an eel onto the line. The types of fish are listed on the wall, as are their prices. Once you’ve hooked one, just tell the staff how you’d like it prepared – the options are grilled, fried or sliced up a sashimi.
Fish might be the top attraction at Zauo but we supplemented our meals with lots of little dishes from the menu and weren’t disappointed. Hot fried crab cakes, platters of vegetables, some gyoza and a few sushi rolls had us feeling more than stuffed. There’s also no pressure to fish if you don’t want to and, in the end, our whole table ended up sharing the sea bream I caught and that was it.
Zauo is located in the Shinjuku Washington Hotel, which has a direct access tunnel leading to it from Shinjuku Station (comes in VERY handy on rainy days). Reservations aren’t necessary on most days but if you do call, make sure to specify your seating preference.
Their website is only in Japanese but the address and phone number is listed at the top of the page and there is a map for taxi drivers at the bottom.