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.
The above is a reproduction of Mark Makhoul's original post on Kuwaiti blog 2:48AM talking about what he thought of newly opened Kuwaiti restaurant Benihana. The franchise holder of the restaurant then proceeded to issue a lawsuit against Mark, presumably with the intention of scaring him into taking down his post or perhaps agreeing to post something altogether more fawning. The company then faced a wave of public anger at its actions, choosing to ignore this, deleting negative comments from its Facebook page and blocking those who commented. Both Benihana Kuwait and the franchisor, Benihana of Tokyo, have consistently refused comment on this shameful little episode.
This has already turned into a social media mismanagement case study that will run and run. They're a laughing stock. Millions of people around the world have read the story: Fast Company, BoingBoing, TheNextWeb and others have posted it (let alone traditional news media around the world). Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people have seen the story on Twitter. And it's not going to go away - bloggers around the region and beyond are posting copies of Mark's OP today - on blogs, Facebook and other social media platforms.
Already, this case is prominent when you Google Benihana - and it is, of course, on their Wikipedia entry. If you're looking for Benihana Kuwait, this nasty little story is all you get. Surely these people realise that this is already game over - that if they don't reconsider their actions and act to stop this (and stopping it rests, as it always has, entirely in their hands) that they won't have a restaurant left at the end of the day? It is NOT going to go away.
The case is due to have its first day in court on the 8th March. I would URGE Benihana of Tokyo to finally act responsibly and rein in its idiotic licensee before the damage to the Benihana brand globally becomes irreperable. This will start to hurt other Benihana licensees who have had no part in this. All Benihana has to do is drop the case.
For fun and larks, you can follow the hashtag #BenihanaKUW on Twitter.