NI: Katsu-Ya is one of the safe bets in Appleton’s fine dining options. TR: It’s just a short walk away from the Radisson and is a great place to take friends or family who visit Lawrence and doubt the ethnic diversity of food on the Ave. NI: We wait to be seated in the dimly lit bar by the entrance and choose a table by the window. I feel like I’m on display. Is my hair okay? TR: You’re fine. NI: The music is kept to a low and polite volume and is gradually drowned out by conversation and the scattered ‘clinks’ of shot glasses knocking together. Rows of booze line the shelf behind the bartender and are thinned out as more customers slide onto a free stool or rest their elbows on the counter. It’s a busy Friday night and this place is packed. I hope they’re all not waiting to be seated. This could take forever. TR: I’m sure they’re not. Do you remember the first time we came here back in freshman year? They sat us in one of those booths that you liked so much. NI: It had a TV! We watched “Spirited Away.” TR: If you’re not in the mood for hibachi, then Katsu-Ya has a great selection of sushi and exotic Japanese entrées to choose from. We recommend the hibachi option for a night out with a group of friends, but if you’re here to just enjoy a quiet evening of dinner and idle chitchat then you can’t go wrong with Katsu-Ya’s menu and tripartite seating strategy. NI: Agreed. We’re seated at a table in the corner with another party of three who maintain a good four-seat safe space between us and them. Needless to say, it’s awkward. TR: You wanted hibachi. NI: But, it’s fun! TR: The waitress starts us off with a small helping of salad and some miso soup. She sets aside two small bowls of dipping sauces. One tastes like your standard soy sauce and the other seems to be of the golden-brown peanut sauce variety. NI: The salad is topped off with a creamy “homemade” dressing. I suppose a salad dressing made at a restaurant by a professional chef can be called homemade if the space set aside for food preparation is somewhat warm and welcoming. TR: It’s quite good. The soup is mostly a nice warm broth with a few spices and chopped vegetables thrown in to whet your appetite. The waitress cleared our table once we were done and a chef rolled his cart to his station. NI: I love watching the volcano trick with the onions. He chops up an onion and sets them up on top of each other like a small dormant volcano, pours oil into the spout and sets it on fire. It lets me stop thinking about what anime they might be showing in that other room with the fancy booth. TR: I hate the thing he does with the shrimp tails. The chef tries to flip them into his hat but always sends a few flying at his patron’s glasses. Who wants dinner floating around in their water? NI: Oooh, fire! TR: I’m getting the hibachi shrimp and salmon combo. It’s always exciting to see your order being placed on the grill. The anticipation builds and your mouth starts to imagine what the finished product must taste like. NI: I ordered the swordfish. TR: Why swordfish? NI: Why not swordfish? TR: The salmon is cooked to a perfect reddish-brown glow. Its meat is soft and oozes its spices the moment you take that first bite. The fried rice is a mix of exotic flavors and can be mixed with the generous helping of shrimp to complete a scrumptious meal. NI: The swordfish is a bigger chunk of meat that sits on the side of your plate. It’s dark in color and has a thin and crunchy outer crust with a soft pink inside. The flavors feel stronger and set the dish apart with a unique taste from the rest of your plate. Whereas the salmon can sometimes get lost in your mouth, the swordfish’s unique texture and interesting taste will distinguish it from the rice or vegetable sides you’ve chosen for your dinner. TR: I couldn’t finish mine but reluctantly agreed to some ice cream to calm my stomach down. You can get a combo of vanilla and mango, which I recommend if your dish was particularly spicy. NI: Katsu-Ya is a bit expensive to be a frequent getaway for Larry U and friends but if you happen to be in the mood for East Asian cuisine you would be hard pressed to find a better place at a more convenient location. TR: The hibachi is a dining experience you owe yourself to try if you’ve never done it before, but make sure to come with a group of friends so that you can get a table all to yourself.