New York City’s dining scene is about to get a whole lot sillier next week with the entry of Japanese restaurant chain Zauo, where diners literally fish for their dinner before plopping down to eat what they caught.
On Monday, October 15, the 134-seat space in Chelsea at 152 West 24th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, will open to the public with three pools holding fish such as striped bass, fluke, flounder, and rainbow trout for people to channel their best rural selves. A second floor even has a 60-foot-long boat on it, which looks down onto one of the pools. Once caught, the fish can then be grilled, tempura-fried, simmered in soy, or served as sashimi, and servers will take over if there are any issues. Beyond the main attraction, the large menu — in full below — also has hot and cold appetizers, sushi, rice, noodles, and soup.
Of all the Japanese restaurants to enter NYC — and there have been a lot — this is by far the most outrageous. But family owners Noriki Takahashi and his sons Kazuhisa and Takuya insist that in Japan, it’s more of a family-friendly place to learn about the life cycle of food than a theme restaurant just for the sake of it. To that end, there’s a no-catch-and-release policy, so diners must eat the type of fish they happen to catch — though various pools hold different types of fish, so attempts can be pointed.
Management expects some level of education will be necessary, and illustrated menu cards explicitly guide diners through a meal, showing how to get a “fishing license” and pole, bait a catch, and order. Cards also show fish in their raw state, with information on each one.
The interest in Zauo has been intense since it was first announced in mid-2017, with morning shows and seemingly every local publication discussing the wacky concept. Takuya has moved here permanently to oversee the entry into an American market, where he says they have changed little from the Japanese version, which has 13 locations in Japan. It’s very popular there, requiring reservations and even appearing on cult favorite Netflix reality show Terrace House.
Zauo opens on October 15, with nightly hours of 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. (last seating at 10 p.m.). Reservations are accepted from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., when it becomes walk-in only.