I am not the sporty outdoorsy type and have never tried fishing in its natural environment before (i.e. the only times I’ve somewhat tried previously were in man-made ponds). Since I was on the trail of themed restaurants, I decided to go check out this fishing restaurant called Zauo「釣船茶屋ざうお」, located at Shinjuku in Tokyo.
This restaurant chain originates from Fukuoka in Kyushu and has since opened several branches across Japan.
It was such a coincidence that the restaurant happened to be located at the hotel I was staying at (I had booked my trip in Jan 2014 but hadn’t finalized my itinerary then), so that made it even more convenient! ^_^
When you step into the restaurant, you will see a huge fishing boat which occupies most of the floor area of the restaurant and is surrounded by what looks like a moat containing various types of live seafood. Cool!
Diners can sit at tables on the fishing boat and try to fish for your meal from above. However, there is limited seating on the boat so if they are all occupied, you will be ushered to the ordinary table booths located around the back of the boat.
As I wanted to maximise my experience at the restaurant, I made a reservation a few days earlier and specified that I wanted a table on the boat.
English menus are available and diners have the option whether you want to fish for your dinner or simply order off the menu. A brief fishing guide is also provided for your reference (a “how to” guide on the process can be found here).
I asked the restaurant staff with regards to how long it would take to catch a fish and they said it depends on how skillful you are at fishing! That didn’t help at all!!…
We were kind of hungry and weren’t sure whether we could successfully catch any fish, so we decided to order a few items from the menu just to temporarily satisfy our hunger pangs.
Love the logo on their chopstick covers!
They first served us with an appetizer (¥324 incl. tax, per serving) which was a piece of radish and some kind of fishcake and it was quite nice. We didn’t order this but had to pay for it – I suppose it’s like a mandatory fee for dining at this themed restaurant (e.g. miscellaneous charge similar to the tea/towel/peanuts charge in Singapore)??
Dried and Grilled Squid (¥734 incl. tax) – This was dry and chewy and I think would be a good accompaniment to alcohol.
Japanese Omelette containing Alaska Pollack Roe (¥734 incl. tax) – I’ve never had tamagoyaki stuffed with other ingredients and this sounded interesting, so I decided to order it. The fish roe was a little salty but overall it was quite nice.
Now for the fishing part…
It costs ¥108 (incl. tax) for a small portion of bait (shrimp) which is to be used to catch the fish. The fishing rod with a tiny hook at the end is provided free of charge.
Do note that there’s no such practice as “catch and release” here – once you have caught something, it means that you will pay for it! Therefore, do have a look at the menu first to check out the prices of the fish/seafood, then target the more affordable ones.
We decided to try fishing for Sea Bream「鯛」 (bait needs to be used to catch this) as it was the cheapest fish on the menu but they just wouldn’t bite!! 😦
There are other fish and even lobsters and turban shells, which you can try catching with your fishing rod. Some of them do not require any bait to be caught and you’ll have to test your skills with the tiny fishing hook.
For those seafood which is charged at market prices, there is a signboard near the tanks that lists the current prices but the fish names are in Japanese, so seek clarification from the staff if you are unsure.
As I wasn’t having any luck with the Sea Bream「鯛」 from where I was seated, I decided to move to the other side of the boat and try to at least catch one fish for dinner!
The Sea Bream「鯛」 wouldn’t bite at this end as well, so I tried my luck with the Flounder「ヒラメ」 and it took me 3 attempts before I caught this one! As the fish will be wriggling on the hook once you’ve caught it, nets are provided so that you can better handle that slippery creature and pass it to the waiter.
Haha…my hubby was still trying to catch Sea Bream from our table and was oblivious to the fact that I had already snagged a Flounder!
According to their website and signboard outside the restaurant, the staff are supposed to beat the drum, do a victory dance and chant to celebrate your success in catching a fish but there was no one around to witness my successful catch except the other diners who were still attempting to catch their own fish. Thus, I didn’t get any celebratory dance from the staff – what a letdown! (not that I wanted the attention anyway but still it was part of the novelty of this restaurant….and I did hear the victory chants much earlier when other customers successfully caught their fish!)
Next was the decision as to how the fish was to be prepared…
As you can see from the menu, the fishing price is much cheaper than ordering straight off the menu. Even if you add on the cost of the bait, it still works out to be cheaper.
We decided to have half the fish as sashimi and the other half grilled, so my cooking specifications were given to the waiter when I quietly handed over the fish to him with my table number.
The sashimi was served on a bed of ice. I don’t think I’ve ever had Flounder「ヒラメ」 as sashimi before and it was actually quite nice.
This was our grilled fish minus the parts that were removed for the sashimi.
Various sauces and seasonings were available at the table and we were testing out the different types of soy sauce including ponzu「ポン酢」 (they had slightly different tastes and levels of saltiness) with the sashimi.
Finally, here’s another picture in case you were wondering how big the portion of fish was. It definitely needed 2 persons to finish this – I don’t think I would have been able to eat the whole fish all by myself! (or maybe I could have if we didn’t order the other dishes earlier)
Our total bill came to ¥6306 but I used a discount coupon (only applicable for use on Mondays and reservations are required) and got 10% off, so our final bill was ¥5676 which wasn’t too bad for a dinner for 2 persons (including 2 non-alcoholic drinks), considering that it was at a themed restaurant in Tokyo.
I declare that I am better at fishing than my husband! LOL!!… :p
Overall it was quite a unique dining experience but I probably wouldn’t do it again as I don’t have the patience to wait for the fish to bite if I’m hungry! The fish was very fresh as it is prepared almost immediately after you’ve caught it.
Important points to take note of:
– You can’t release a fish back into the water once it has been caught and this could be a problem if by accident you catch a really expensive fish that may burn a big hole in your wallet.
– You CANNOT scoop the fish out of the tank with a net if you haven’t actually caught it with the fishing hook!
– If you don’t manage to catch anything, you can order the fish off the menu but it will cost more.
Shinjuku Washington Hotel
3-2-9 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 160-8336 Japan.
Lunch (Weekdays) 11:30～14:00 [Last Order 13:30]
Dinner (Weekdays) 17:00～23:00 [Last Order 22:00]
Sat, Sun & Holidays 11:30～23:00 [Last Order 22:00]
Check this link for a discount coupon (terms and conditions apply) – http://www.zauo.com/img/shoplist_img/shinjuku-cuupon.jpg
For more details on this themed restaurant, check out the restaurant’s page (Japanese only) at http://www.zauo.com
SHINJUKU WASHINGTON HOTEL is directly connected to Shinjuku Station by an underground passageway (serviced by JR, Tokyo Metro, Odakyu, Keio and other railway lines) between 06:00 and 22:45 for comfortable access even in bad weather.
8 min walk from Shinjuku Station.
Oedo subway Line, Tocho-mae Station (Tokyo Metropolitan Government)
5 min walk from Tocho-mae Station.