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My Benihana experience – to support Mark in Kuwait

February 14, 2011


This is quite different from my usual items but I’ve made the decision to post this in exceptional and worrying circumstances not just for bloggers; I hope you will read it as it has disturbing implications worldwide for freedom of speech.

David vs Goliath

Mark Makhoul, a blogger living in the Middle East,  is now the subject of a US$18,000 lawsuit filed by the Kuwaiti franchisee of global Japanese restaurant chain Benihana. Mark’s crime? Posting a mildly critical restaurant review on his blog.  You can see a full breakdown of events on the UAE community blog.  I am reposting Mark’s original piece today, along with many other bloggers around the world, to offer support and raise awareness about this. For more about the way this has been handled on a marketing level visit Fake Plastic Souks.

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is not the right to libel or use ‘hate speech’ and is quite rightly subject to limitations.  However the right to freedom of speech is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of speech as “the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.”

Here is Mark’s original post. Thank you for reading and I hope you understand why I’ve decided to take this action today.

My Benihana Experience

“A few days back I posted about Benihana opening up at the Avenues and yesterday night I decided to pass by with Nat and try it out. The service wasn’t too bad for a restaurant that’s just been open for a few days and the staff were really friendly. The restaurant itself is made up of islands and bars with a grill in the middle of each one. You sit around the grill and the chef will come to your table and prepare the food right in front of you which makes things entertaining. It’s actually why I prefer sitting at the bar in Japanese restaurants in general, since you can talk to the chef and watch them put your dish together. The problem with my experience last night though was with the food, it was disappointing to say the least.

We ordered beef negimayaki for starters followed by an Orange Blossom maki and a Hibachi Chicken. The negimaki arrived looking good and was probably the best thing we had there even though I prefer Maki’s negimaki which has a richer teriyaki sauce. The Orange Blossom was very ordinary, wouldn’t order it again. Now the Hibachi chicken which is basically grilled chicken, that was the worst. The chicken was very chewy (I could swear it was undercooked if not raw) and tasted terrible. Even after I had the chef add some more teriyaki sauce in hopes of improving the taste it didn’t work. I tried to dip it into the sauces that came with the chicken but it was hard to figure out if they were actually making things worse or not. Nat only ate one piece of chicken and left the rest while I needed my protein since I’m on a strict diet and forced myself to eat my whole plate (I can do that) but the after taste was really bad. Even the rice and the veggies that came with it tasted bad AND were under cooked. Once we left I considered picking up a frozen yogurt from Pinkberry even though I hate frozen yogurts but I just needed something to get rid of the aftertaste. A few moments later we ended up at Chocolate Bar ordering the gooey chocolate cake (bye bye diet).

I shot the two videos above of the chef preparing our meal. Benihana are known for the live shows they perform when preparing your dish so I was expecting to see [This] but ended up with the above . Would I go back to Benihana? No I wouldn’t. Their sashimi and maki’s are pretty cheap (KD1.5 for 5 pieces of Salmon sashimi for example) but there are two other Japanese restaurants at the Avenues, Wasabi and Maki, and I would prefer either one of those to Benihana.

  1. February 14, 2011 11:32 am

    Sally, it will be interesting to see how this case pans out for bloggers, F&B outlets, journalists, and Mar Comms professionals in the region and indeed worldwide. I see a case study on “How NOT to engage social media” in the making.

  2. February 14, 2011 12:12 pm

    Well done Sally, this a very just cause.


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