"Trout à la green plague."
Fish that "tasted like old ski boots."
Peking duck pancakes "the size of a saucer and the thickness of a finger."
"Bring a can of Raid if you plan to eat here."
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These are all lines that restaurant critics wielded and which court rulings have let slide as hyperbole and metaphor.
What about the Philadelphia critic's assertion that a meal "was expensive and disappointing, from the soggy and sour chopped salad to a miserably tough and fatty strip steak"?
If the earlier cases are a reliable guide, it is doomed, the New York Times said in a story today about critical reviews and litigious restaurateurs headlined "Serving You Tonight Will Be Our Lawyer."
"Reviews, although they may be unkind, are not normally a breeding ground for successful libel actions," federal appeals court in Manhattan stated in 1985.
I've had restaurant owners show up at my office to protest a negative review, but none have ever served me legal papers.
"As a critic," Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "I figure I'm always one misplaced adjective away from getting slapped with legal action. When I write a truly negative review, I always refrain from listing all the offenses, and I generally return to the restaurant more than the standard three times. That way if I am sued, I can demonstrate that I took extra precautions and bent over backward to be fair. I only hope the criticism is taken as constructive, rather than destructive."