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Benihana sues blogger for poor review

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Benihana, the American company that owns and franchises Japanese-themed steak houses around the world, is suing a Kuwaiti blogger $18,000 for a negative review he wrote on his blog back in December.

Mark Makhou operates a popular local blog called Twofortyeightam. After eating one particular meal at a Kuwaiti branch of the restaurant known for their tiki mugs, wisecracking chefs, and onion volcanoes, Makhou wrote a pejorative summation of his experience, particularly concerning the Hibachi chicken, which he found "very chewy" and "terrible."

Shortly after the review was posted, Benihana's general manager, Mike Servo, posted an angry reply on Makhou's blog, threatening legal action. He subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit on January 30. In the angry post, Servo asked if Makhou was Lebanese, which he is. This is relevant because non-citizen Kuwaiti residents, like Makhou, have limited legal rights in the country, which tends to favor businesses. So it appears that Servo and Benihana are taking advantage of this reality. Makhou faces an uphill battle when he goes to court on March 8.

Abu Dhabi's The National reported that the whole fiasco led to a backlash of angry patrons filling Benihana's Kuwaiti Facebook page with threats and complaints, with the chain in turn deleting scores of Facebook wall posts. To me, this is a substantive case, because if a food reviewer can't honestly express how he feels about a meal, what's the point? It looks like Benihana has just exacerbated the damage. The chef's spatula skills in the short video clip make for some damning symbolism.