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New York City is full of indoor kids. So it’s no surprise that Zauo, the Japanese fishing restaurant, makes the rugged sport as simple—and indoorsy—as possible for the state’s worst fishermen.
Inside the multi-level, Finding Nemo–esque space—complete with a wooden boat hanging from the ceiling and an LED screen broadcasting underwater videos—the staff guides you to one of the many shallow pools teeming with your chosen fish (rainbow trout, flounder, lobster, salmon, among others). They bait your hook, give a brief explainer on proper technique and secure your squirmy pal into a net before letting you snap a pic of your moment of triumph. The whole thing takes a few minutes and ends with a team clapping and cheering and drum-banging for your very outdoors-kid accomplishment. It’s an everyone-gets-a-merit-badge event, which is refreshing in a city that requires Olympic-level competitiveness just to walk through Times Square in July.
But the gimmicky part ends as soon as the meal begins. After you order your fish fried, grilled, sashimi’d or simmered in soy sauce (or you can have certain breeds prepared two different ways), the dishes arrive swiftly and elegantly plated, if you don’t mind staring at your victim’s head. The lobster tempura is tender and sweet with a light, crunchy batter, while the flounder simmering in soy sauce strikes just the right notes of full-bodied umami. But that same flounder is not to be sashimi’d, as the raw slices are too thin to be so chewy.
And if you’re particularly squeamish, you can order from a full menu that skirts the fishing entirely. For starters, an agedashi tofu is served as pillowy cubes stewing in a savory dashi, while the dashimaki tamago is a soft and spongy Japanese-rolled omelet. The signature umibozu salad starts off promisingly, thanks to a crispy layer of fried spring-roll skin atop a bed of lettuce and a poached egg, but a mysterious watery consistency sitting at the bottom wilts its potential.
After your briny feast, the waitress will likely convince you to try a palate-cleansing ice cream dessert. Choose from the likes of a pungent wasabi scoop, a crisp, yuzu-shiso gelato or a decadent vanilla dripping in a brown-sugar syrup. The wholesome treats will cap off a stylish, novelty-filled night that for some, may be a little too fresh to death.