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DMN. Rise and Shine!

Following an unusual but expected response from Leslie Brenner

Open Letter – The Epilogue

Right off the bat, or samurai sword, or chef’s knife, we’d like to thank each and every one of you who contributed to making Niwa Japanese BBQ’s, aka Leslie Brenner’s September to Remember promotion a wild, yeehawing success! For all those who visited our restaurant because of that open letter, we can’t express enough how much we enjoyed your enjoyment in our mutual enjoyment and look forward to serving you with more enjoyable deliciousness in the future.

We thank all those who supported us for standing up for what we believe in, for defending just the simplest and most fundamental notion of respect or appreciation for cultures that are not our own, and for speaking up on behalf of those who sincerely dedicate their lives and livelihoods to perfecting their craft, whatever shape or form that particular devotion might come in. Likewise, we thank y’all for sharing your thoughts and perspectives and your own stories, for your understanding and solidarity, and for making those sometimes long journeys just to deliver those messages of support in person. We appreciate it all and can’t stop smiling either.

Sure, we had a bit of trepidation that we’d be mobbed by an unruly horde of fanatic El Brenner partisans, their underage accomplices right there behind them screaming like banshees in their entitled exuberance, demanding alcohol to go along with the 50%-off appetizers that they couldn’t get enough of since someone else was paying the check, but lo and behold, crickets …

Holy cow, that would have been too much to bear.

* * *

As we reflect on the overwhelming success of Leslie Brenner’s self-inflicted promotion, we must also extend a fair apology, which is going to be difficult. Ok, here it is:

We understand that satire might not be everyone’s cup of green tea.

Additionally, some people don’t like to laugh.

About that, we are truly sorry.

In the due course of things, we have also come to understand that a few select people, as evidenced by a couple of corollary conversations and one obnoxious (her choice of word, not ours) article in another publication, don’t quite get it. Again, we would like to take full responsibility for any misunderstanding or lack of clarity. That is our fault, of course, for not illuminating everything. So, if you’d like to read on, let us reveal a bit more about the story and course of events to put the open letter into even better perspective.

* * *

So, first she published that original article.

And then a follow-up glossary of terms article.

At this point, we wrote the open letter in response.

After that, we posted the letter on our website.

Next, we went to Leslie Brenner’s Facebook page.

We did wonder what we were doing there.

We found the article on her wall.

And left our response as comment.

With a helpful link to our open letter.

To our surprise, just thirty (30) minutes later, Leslie Brenner Herself graced us with a private message.

But why a private message?

Didn’t she make a career out of publically making judgements, critiques, and pronouncements…?

But hey, at least she was finally personally reaching out, right?

“Hi Jimmy, thank you for your response.”

Nice start!

No, thank you, Leslie Brenner!

“As you know, that was not a review, simply a recommendation – one that I hesitated to include in the story, as the service was unprofessional and the dining room so uncomfortable.”

Whoa, that turned quickly.

Not that we didn’t expect it, truth be told.

But anyways, yes, to answer your question, the whole wide world knows that was definitely not a review. We’d argue that that wasn’t even a recommendation. As we acknowledged in our open letter, it was more like a chuuto-hanpa something of some sort.

But since you want to bring up the notion of professionalism…

Let’s entertain that idea a bit deeper through a series of uncomfortable questions:

As we alluded to in the letter, we’re still really wondering who ended up paying for that big check you racked up that night?

If you paid for it out of pocket, why hide behind an anonymous alias and proceed to make a work-related recommendation-only-not-a-full-review-which-would-take-too-much-work based on that experience of yours?

And if the Dallas Morning News paid for it, why bring along an underage accomplice and a third abettor and continue to drink the night away at a place you found to be so uncomfortable?


Unless of course, that’s how the Dallas Morning News likes its employees to conduct its professional business.

Is that standard operating procedure there?

And why would you leave that kind of job?

Sounds like you had some seriously awesome perks.

And yes, we have the receipts and other fine documentation as well.

And no, Dallas Morning News, we’re not done with you yet either.

The message continued…

“Thank you for alerting me to the two misspellings; I have send [sic] the correct spellings to my editor, who will make sure they are corrected. (I am no longer at the paper.)”

Your (selective) attention to (some) detail(s) is amazing!

Did you really interpret the crux of the letter being about the misspellings?

And then throwing your editor under the bus for his or her oversight when you proceed in the very next clause to oversee your own use of the wrong tense or verb form (send à sent)?

Don’t worry, we’re totally empathetic. Facebook. Technology. That damn spellchecker…

But come on, you gotta appreciate the cosmic irony here.

And yes, of course we knew you were no longer at the paper. Didn’t you actually read the piece? Come on, we congratulated you from the outset on your new big move. In fact, the whole letter was a goodbye dedicated just to you.

And then it came.

Surprise, surprise.

“While obviously you are correct about the origin of the word Wagyu and its literal meaning, it is indeed a breed of cattle known for rich marbling, so no correction there.”

Yes, thank you.

But as we explained in the open letter, no.

Your interpretation of the definition was and remains incorrect.

Moreover, the “literal” meaning, to anyone who understands the meaning of meaning, is what we would actually just traditionally call the meaning, yaknowwattamean?

Who are you to redefine a Japanese word and what it means? And, that Leslie Brenner, is why we have a beef with you.

If the myriad additional corrections we appended to the end of this letter are of any significance, we’re suggesting you stop, at your earliest convenience, pretending.

A little humility goes a long way, they say.

And really? The only response you could muster was a glib, “so no correction there”?

How nice and eloquent.

But again, we’re not here to change who you are as a person or how you engage in conversations with the people you critique from behind an alias and computer screen.

Our more pressing concern, as it has been from the outset, is that we attempt to correct misinformation.

As dog lovers, we’d like to employ the help of our furry friends to provide a bit of clarity.

Wagyu, as we explained, simply means Japanese (wa) Cow (gyu). So, imagine that there is a word that means Japanese (wa) Dog (inu). According to your logic, wainu would be a breed of Japanese dog known for whatever you’d like to literally define it being known for. But any dog lover would immediately know that that would be ridiculous. Just to name a few breeds of Japanese dogs, there are the Akita, Shiba-Inu, Shikoku Inu, Japanese Terrier, Tosa Inu, Japanese Spitz, Hokkaido, and Kishu Ken.

Not one breed, but many.

And each of them is known for many different things, aside from being of Japanese origin. (FYI: The four breeds of wagyu are Kuroge Wagyu, Akage Wagyu, Nihon Tankaku Wagyu, and Mukaku Wagyu).

So, let’s say you were a Dog Competition Judge working for an official Dog Competition Organization and said during the course of your work that Wainu (Japanese Dog) is a breed of dog that is known for…


… And then imagine if an actual Japanese dog breeder (or every single breeder) corrected you and instead of humbly admitting your mistake and thanking that expert for shedding some light on what hopefully was just a slip of the tongue in the heat of competition, so to speak, you doubled down on your original mistake, stubbornly.

And then to top it all off, you send a private message to the one dog breeder who had the temerity to state the facts, and you reply with your patent-pending, “so no correction there.”

Suffice it to say, if you were in Japan, you’d be embarrassed out of the industry and likely politely barked all the way out of the country for your clear fraudulence and embarrassingly transparent disregard and disrespect for, or just simple ignorance of, the culture even though you claim to have enough expertise in it, or judicious manner regarding it, to be rightly called a “critic”.

So, again, hopefully for the last time, no. Wagyu is not a breed of cattle known for rich marbling. Wagyu is Japanese beef, not a breed. And there are four different breeds, from various regions throughout Japan, all with varying degrees of marbling. And there are also different grades of beef, which further… but never mind. It’s clear you never really ever cared about the details …

And that wouldn’t even be the end of the story in Japan.

Guess what else would’ve happened?

Have you seen Japanese TV? It’s quite a spectacle.

The person or an acceptable representative of the company or organization who hired you would stand in front of a crowd of reporters and repeatedly bow deeply in sincere apology for your mistake. And you’d have to be right there with them, bowing just as deeply.

But hey, this ain’t Japan, we understand.

And in any event, we certainly don’t expect anything of, or need anything from, you.

Although if you ever do regain your public voice or confidence again, we’d love for you to set the record straight.

Just because we think it would make you a better person in the eyes of many.

And because we think it’ll be good for your soul.

* * *

Finally, Dallas Morning News.

We’re not here to judge your business ethics/model or even to publicly question your hiring practices.

We’re just asking that you show your true colors by dealing with this situation wisely, not only by correcting the misinformation that you’ve allowed to be printed, but also by addressing our concerns publicly. We’d ask for it to be done in a timely manner as well, but you’ve already dropped the ball on that one and it’s rolling around in the wind like wild tumbleweed. Time continues to tick and to us and many in our industry, your conspicuous silence speaks volumes.

Along these lines, we also simply ask that if you ever decide to replace Leslie Brenner with another food critic, please make sure not only that they are sufficiently qualified and thoroughly vetted (her reputation precedes her) but also that they have a real and abiding passion for food and the cultures from which they derive and possibly diverge. Food and culture are complicated things and as we’ve explained in the open letter, we’re trying to delicately balance those imperatives while also dealing with the day-to-day exigencies of running a viable business.

The last thing we need is to have to worry about a so-called “critic” who comes in with underage accomplices, doesn’t take the time to do her due diligence, doesn’t understand the food or culture she aims to write about, writes error-filled articles, responds with glib nonchalance, and is backed by a big organization that has the power and reach to really do damage to the hard work and gainful employment of many.

The same power and reach also affords you, of course, the ability to make mistakes right and we expect that you will. Reach out to us. We’re neighbors and, after all, we’re all here to humbly and hopefully make this city a tad bit better in our own little ways, right? This world is a crazy place right now with so many unnecessary distractions, so let’s work together rather than add to the noise or unwittingly bolster the forces that ultimately keep us all in the dark.

Rise and shine, Dallas Morning News. We’re awake and waiting.


Niwa Japanese BBQ

P.S. – Dear Editor, the following is a non-exhaustive list of a few other corrections we’d like to bring to your attention regarding her glossary of terms:

1. Kobe is not a prefecture. Kobe is a city in Hyogo prefecture.

2. Ponzu is not literally citrus juice. It’s a citrus-based sauce.

3. Shabu Shabu is not cooked in stock. It’s cooked in water.

4. Tamago just means egg. What she was referring to is dashimaki tamago or tamagoyaki.

5. Togarashi or shichimi often has seven (7) spices. The single spices of ground chili is called ichimi. Her description of Yoshi Shabu Shabu’s sauces as togarashi is incorrect. They’re actually made from ichimi.

6. Zuke just means pickled; what she was referring to was most likely magurozuke, which is marinated tuna.

d the good word!