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Japanese BBQ Owner Rakes Former Food Critic Leslie Brenner Over the Coals

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Even now that her time is up, the former Dallas Morning News critic still stirs controversy

Courtesy Rebees

Leslie Brenner may have worked her last day as the Dallas Morning News food critic last week, but she’s still stirring up controversy, evidenced by an open letter penned to the critic just days after her departure.

Jimmy Niwa, owner of Niwa Japanese Barbecue in Deep Ellum, took to Facebook to vent about Brenner’s last major project for the Dallas Morning News — a guide to the city’s Japanese cuisine scene. Brenner didn’t exactly rave about Niwa’s yakinuku eatery, prompting the restaurateur to write an obnoxious rant on Facebook about everything that Brenner got wrong. That post has since been moved over to Niwa Japanese Barbecue’s website, and it’s a doozy.

The open letter kicks off with Niwa reminiscing about one of Brenner’s visits to the restaurant, at which she brought an underage companion that ordered an alcoholic beverage. In Texas, minors can be served alcoholic beverages in restaurants if he or she is in the “visible presence” of a parent. While his staff tried to sort out the issue, Niwa says that Brenner’s guest was “entitled” and “pushy.”

Niwa also takes major issue with some of Brenner’s definitions and descriptions. “You refer to Yakiniku as ‘Korean-style Japanese BBQ,” Niwa wrote. “Why not just Japanese BBQ, particularly when you’re writing about all things Japanese? We love Korean BBQ as well, but there are substantive differences and anyone who loves either or both can surely make the distinction. Do you refer to ramen as Chinese-style Japanese noodles? Tonkatsu or tempura as Portuguese-style Japanese batter-fried food?” Later in the letter, Niwa nit-picks Brenner’s definition of “wagyu.”

Of course, this squabble is essentially pointless now that Brenner is officially on the other side of the industry, set to start her new gig at Rebees Hospitality in the coming weeks. Still, it’s fascinating to see how polarizing the former critic remains even now that her time is up.

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