Tokyo is full of funny restaurants, and one of them is Zauo, which Poul and I heard about back in 2012, as we ran into Tina and her husband in Tokyo. They told us about this unusual place that lets you catch your own dinner, and we all decided to try to find it. However, without GoogleMaps or any complete address, it turned out to be a mission impossible, and instead we ended up having dinner at a chicken restaurant, Imai-ya, which you can read about here.
Even though we didn’t find Zauo back in 2012, I kept the place in mind, and when Poul and I were back in Tokyo in July this year, I was determined to find it. It turned out that one of the main branches was on the first floor in the monstrous Shinjuku Washington Hotel, so it wasn’t too hard to find. We didn’t have a reservation, and there were a lot of people queuing outside, so we prepared ourselves for a long wait, as we walked up to the hostess and asked, if there was a table available. She told us there was a waiting list, but if we were willing to share a table with others, we could get one right away. Great! We took off our shoes and went inside, ready for a big catch.
The staff handed us fishing rods and bait, and then we went to the big basin that took up most of the restaurant’s floor space. There was plenty of fish in the water, but I don’t think they were hungry that night, or perhaps they had just figured out that taking the bait would lead to ending their days as sashimi on a table nearby, and most of them seemed tired and did their best to avoid getting caught. A collection of smaller compartments full of fish had been installed near the edge of the basin, to make the fish easier to catch (at a premium price), but even here, the fish just didn’t take the bait.
After almost one and a half hour, we gave up and ordered something from the menu instead. It was slightly more expensive than catching our own dinner, but we were able to pick and mix and didn’t have to eat a whole sea bream or whatever we would have caught, if we had given it another 5 hours or so.
We ordered a large serving of mixed sashimi and two bowls of rice on the side as well as a glass of Japanese beer. The sashimi was a bit disappointing and some of the pieces were chewy. Maybe it is with fish, as it is with cattle, i.e. if they’re stressed, the meat gets tough? Or maybe we just got some inferior cuts, I don’t know, but the total bill wasn’t more than around 4000JPY, and it was a really fun evening, so what the heck. I must say that I’m a bit ambivalent regarding the entire concept of catching, and indirectly killing, your own food and I’m not sure I would have been so enthusiastic about it, if it were hens or, even worse, cute fluffy lambs, but there’s no doubt that Zauo is one of those places that you will remember long after you’ve left Tokyo. Maybe not for the excellent food, but without a doubt for a very “only-in-Japan” experience.