For diners looking for a quiet night, Zauo is certainly not the place. The restaurant, which opened on Monday, is the Japanese import where customers literally fish for their dinner, and the seemingly bizarre, interactive concept is poised to become one of the buzziest new venues in town.
In Japan, Zauo is deemed a popular, family-friendly spot where reservations are required. Chelsea is now home to Zauo’s first U.S. outpost, and the long-anticipated opening of the 134-seat space that gives city-dwellers an unexpected place to fish drew plenty of attention throughout the local dining scene.
Here’s what to expect when dining at Zauo, which debuted this week with three indoor tanks carrying several types of fish from fluke to rainbow trout.
Be prepared for a loud night.
Large Japanese drums are sounded just as often as water cups are refilled at Zauo. Each time someone hooks a fish, staff members cheer. They applaud. They beat the deafening drums. Each catch calls for commemoration — and when everyone in the restaurant is there to fish, there’s a good chance that most of the evening will be marked by these beating drums. Making a catch is exciting for diners, a restaurant spokesperson says, and the restaurant wants this joy to be shared with everyone at the restaurant, over and over and over again.
Diners will have support while fishing — from a personal fishing attendant.
Each person fishing is assigned a helper, or a staff member that Zauo has dubbed a “fishing attendant.” This fishing attendant will walk everyone through their fishing experience: They’ll attach the bait to each rod and provide directional guidance once the hook is submerged in the water. The staff helps identify the different fish in each tank, since each contains different types of fish, to ensure diners make the right catch. The servers also cheer people on as they try to catch their fish of choice, no matter how long that takes.
Caught it? Eat it.
There’s a strict no catch-and-release policy at Zauo, meaning diners must eat whatever they catch. The ground-floor tank is home to rainbow trout, striped bass, and salmon trout — and whichever one bites the bait is the one the person behind the rod will be having for dinner. This leads into the next important thing to note.
Prices vary depending on fish type.
Diners fishing in a tank with various types of fish should take caution not to catch the wrong one: There’s quite a price difference between the $38 rainbow trout and the $110 salmon trout, and they’re both just as hungry for the bait at the end of the fishing pole. If diners are wary of catching the wrong fish, they can always ask the staff to scoop their fish of choice out for them.
Catch at least one fish per person, and order plenty of appetizers and side dishes.
Fish is a light meal, and even with four different types on the table, large groups of people may find themselves hungry for more. One person alone can definitely handle a single fish, if not two, depending on the size. Make sure to peruse the a la carte menu for appetizers while the fish is being made. Diners can also order miso soup and fish bone chips.
For the full experience: Dine in a group.
For the best Zauo experience, dine with a group of people. Four is a perfect number, as that gives each person the chance to order a different type of fish and have it served each of the four available ways: sashimi style, grilled, simmered in soy sauce, or tempura style.