This likely isn't true in all parts of the world, but in Western Pennsylvania, if you've been to one hibachi restaurant, you've been to them all.
But when I arrived at Katana Sushi, Hibachi and Chinese in Dormont one recent Saturday, my dining companions and I decided it was worth sampling the hibachi experience.
We started at the bar, which has a serviceable selection of beer, wine and sake. Behind the bar was a television with the NFL playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens. Behind us were two hibachi tables full of diners -- one that seemed to be a large family gathering of people ranging in age from infant to elderly, the other a group of well-dressed 20-somethings.
The waiter and the family were shocked when expletives started flying during particularly exciting moments in the double-overtime game. The burnt orange walls, dark wood floors and simple decor say "family restaurant," not "sports bar."
We were overwhelmed by the eight-page menu, which included sushi and Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes in addition to the hibachi menu.
One of my dining companions and I opted for the hibachi experience -- he ordered shrimp ($17.50), I ordered vegetables ($12.50). My more adventurous friend, who grew up in California, was looking for something more authentic. She ordered beef negimaki ($15.50) from the "Japanese kitchen entrees" section of the menu. We also ordered a "spicy girl roll" ($11.50) from the sushi menu and an order of kim chi ($2.50) to sample as much of the menu as possible.
The hibachi was good and the performance was standard -- a tiny tower of onions set ablaze, egg juggling, utensil tossing. But one of our less fortunate table mates had a raw egg splatter in front of him, a rare mistake for a hibachi performance, which is usually flawlessly executed.
The beef negimaki, though, was not standard hibachi restaurant fare, and it was good. Thin strips of beef were rolled around asparagus on a bed of onions and vegetables.
While the name of the restaurant includes sushi, hibachi and Chinese, the real gems on the menu seem to be the ones that aren't featured. It might be best to skip the flaming onion, grab a cozy table in the back of the restaurant, and order a "Japanese kitchen entree" and some kim chi.
Katana Sushi, Hibachi and Chinese is at 3229 West Liberty Ave., Dormont, 15216; 412-388-1800. Lunch: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; dinner: 4:30 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sundays.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.