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After 13 locations in Japan, the family-owned chain is currently renovating a location in Chelsea.

Mike Pomranz
October 26, 2017

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. That famous Frank Sinatra lyric about New York can be applied to singers on Broadway, to hot shots on Wall Street, and apparently, to Japanese dining chains where patrons literally fish for their meal out of giant tanks positioned around the restaurant.

Joining the growing list of successful (and sometimes quirky) Japanese restaurant chains that have recently decided to see how they can fare in New York City – places like the standing steakhouse brand Ikinari and beloved ramen joint Ichiran – will be Zauo, an eatery that has garnered global attention for handing customers poles and bait to catch their own fish from waters within the walls of the dining area. It’s one of those concepts where you finding yourself wavering on whether it is so simple that its genius or whether it is so unorthodox that it’s insane.

Either way, Zauo has become popular enough in Japan that the family-owned chain now has 13 locations, with its first American outpost set to open in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood at some point in the undisclosed future. According to Eater, the building is already being renovated at 152 West 24th Street, and beyond the requisite fishing tanks, an actual boat is being included into the design plans. One of the biggest issues, however, will be making the whole fishing system fly with the New York’s health department. “Half the people we met said it’s a really interesting concept, and the other half said it’s impossible,” Takuya Takahashi, one of the founder’s sons, said. “That made me want to bring it more.”

As for the whole concept’s slightly crazy side, Kazuhisa Takahashi, Takuya’s brother, actually got a bit philosophical about it. “We totally understand there’s a debate going on, but we’d like people to understand we’re not doing this just as entertainment,” he told Eater. “We do want people to have a good time, but there’s a message we want to send that you’re eating a life. You’re killing a fish and eating it, and in Japan we pray before every meal and say, ‘Thank you for the lives you have given.’ That’s the message behind this restaurant.” Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; make a man catch his own fish in a restaurant and suddenly he’ll realize giving a man a fish isn’t as easy as most restaurants make it look.

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