zauo, the fishing restaurant

Posted on Mar. 17, 2011 by geoffropuff

sorry, sensory overload on the earthquake stuff.  instead, hear about zauo, the fishing restaurant!  there’s a lot of good food in japan: sushi and sashimi, kobe beef, katsus of all kinds, sukiyaki and other hotpots, cooked fish, etc., but if i had to choose one restaurant to give someone a strictly japanese experience, i’d choose zauo, the fishing restaurant.

zauo entrance

a rather plain but lively sign that doesn't do the restaurant justice.

once inside the restaurant, you’ll feel a bit strange because you’re surrounded by water tanks.

zauo fishing tank

they're generously spread around the restaurant, each tank with a mix of specific fish to make fishing random but weighted toward specific catches.

questions begin to pop into your head.  are people really fishing in those tanks?

zauo lisa fishing

yes, people were. in fact, this is lisa catching a delicious hirame (halibut/sole/some kind of flatfish).

how in the hell did a boat ground itself in the middle of this restaurant?

zauo boat

there's actually a couple tables on the boat. you have to reserve them cuz they're the most popular.

and are people even fishing FROM the boat?

zauo me fishing from the boat

yes, indeed.

all kinds of different fish ranging from tai (red snapper/sea bream), hirame, and aji (horse mackeral) were available to catch.

zauo tai tank

unfortunately, the water pump caused a lot of water rippling, making for a blurry picture.

zauo hirame tank

these guys don't even get to swim around, and you don't catch them by a hook in the mouth. you catch them with a hook in the side. sad.

they also had other, more expensive, seafood like sazae (japanese sea snail), awabi (abalone), and ise-ebi (LOBSTER).

zauo lobster tank

this was the bigger guy that i WANTED to catch. too bad he was $300.

lastly, they even had more exotic animals that there was only one of, like anago (saltwater eel) and same ([pronounced sah-meh] shark) that nobody in their right mind would catch cuz they were so prohibitively expensive.

zauo eel tank

there was only one, so i didn't even bother asking how much he cost.

zauo shark tank

same with this guy, except i'm actually morally against eating shark so it was no big loss.

to catch the fish, you first had to bait your own line with small bait shrimp.

zauo shrimp bait

i wonder if these are the same as those small, dried shrimp they put in/on okonomiyaki.

and then just wait for the poor, hungry, exhausted fish to grab your line, looking for either the little sustenance the shrimp provided or the sweet and (not) quick death by sashimi.  [i say not quick because there was definitely a case where the body of a fileted fish was still moving and the eyes were still twitching.  it haunted my dre-NOM NOM NOM]

as an animal lover, i initially thought that the whole process was a little cruel but when I thought about it, the ONLY thing that changes in how these fish are treated at this restaurant versus others is that the customer, not the chef, pulls them out of the water to be prepared.  maybe this is just a defense mechanism justifying me having fun fishing.

zauo mickie drop fish

it's so fun, and you get picture gold like this one. if you look closely, mickie's fish is in fact not on the hook and falling to the ground.

once you catch your fish/seafood, they ask you how you want it prepared.  there’s tons of different ways to have them cooked, like shioyaki (salt-baked), sashimi (sliced raw), nabe (cooked in a hotpot with broth), karaage (deep fried), ochaazuke (served with rice in tea and other seasonings), and others, but certain fish are recommended to be cooked a specific way.

zauo shioyaki

tai shioyaki.

zauo sashimi

aji sashimi.

zauo karaage

aji bones karaage.

zauo ochazuke

ochazuke. (way better than the packaged stuff)

zauo lobster shioyaki

ise-ebi shioyaki.

zauo shoyu/ponzu

tai in a shoyu/ponzu-ish sauce. he doesn't look happy about his situation.

while the fish isn’t top quality as you’d find in a place like tsukiji, the fact that you derived enjoyment from the whole process makes up for the difference.  and by no means am i saying the quality isn’t good, it’s just that tsukiji is home to some of the freshest, most delicious fish you’ll find on the planet.  it’s hard to live up to that reputation anywhere else.

tsukiji tuna head

freshly decapited tuna at tsukiji. can't get any fresher than that!

at the end of the day, if you want a dining experience that you can ONLY get in japan, i’d recommend going to zauo.

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