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Dirty Dining: Restaurants that are cleaning up their act

February 24, 2010
  • Sushi Ya is one restaurant in Anchorage that received disturbingly low remarks on a city health inspection. (Joshua Borough/KTUU-DT)
Sushi Ya is one restaurant in Anchorage that received disturbingly low remarks on a city health inspection. (Joshua Borough/KTUU-DT)

by Jason Lamb
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- While most restaurant owners in Anchorage do a fine job running their establishments, city reports show a few in town have fallen short when it comes to the health and safety of the food you eat.

From filthy food surfaces to rodent droppings all over the kitchen, the horror stories can be pretty disgusting.

For a break during lunch you might try the Sushi Ya Japanese restaurant on Dimond.

Its easily-accessible location attracts dozens of diners every day.

But the city's health inspections database shows the restaurant received several critical violations back in September.

Reports show during its last inspection, a food worker would "briefly run hands under water and shake off excess water" as a means of washing their hands.

So we decided to check in on how they're doing now.

Chong Kim, a Sushi Ya employee showed Channel 2 the walk-in cooler.

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"It's like the chicken and the vegetable is all the stuff in here. It's the cooler, walk-in cooler," Kim said.

Back in September Sushi Ya was busted because "raw chicken was found stored above cooked chicken" in the cooler. That's a big problem, says the city health expert.

"The cooked chicken is ready to eat, you can take it out to the customers and serve it that way. Obviously if you have chicken blood that could drip on the ready-to-eat food below, that's a huge problem," said Chris Tofteberg with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Today the restaurant says it's changed its ways.

"We always keep in the bottom the raw, and the vegetables and the cooked stuff in the top," Kim said.

Another problem health inspectors found in September: The cleaning solution meant to disinfect and kill germs wasn't powerful at all. In fact, records show there was no sanitizing solution in what they were using to clean up.

Again, Sushi Ya says that doesn't happen anymore.

"We didn't put enough bleach in there, so we added a little bit more, since then," Kim said.

The next stop on our dirty dining tour takes us to Peking Wok on Dimond.

In January health inspectors found even dirtier problems here.

During the inspection the city noticed the manager of the restaurant "put his bare hands on pre cooked sweet and sour pork."

And what's more, according to the reports, "no hand sink is present on the cook line" to wash those bare hands-- a critical violation according to the city.

"What that really indicates to us, is that the handwash sink is not being used. That indicates a whole series of problems that none of the staff are using the handwash sink, because it's not available," Tofteberg said.

Inspectors discovered several other things during their visit in January. From their report, "frozen liquid waste was…on the ground out back." "cabinets, drawers, shelves, tables etc… are filthy."

One inspector found the sweet and sour sauce in the restaurant "splashes on the shelf and drips back into bucket and surrounding area."

In another observation from the health inspector, "rodent droppings are all over kitchen."

"Rodents are an issue here, every October as it starts to get cold these rodents are trying to find places to live so we see that quite frequently," Tofteberg said.

But the city says just seeing rodent droppings isn't enough in Anchorage to warrant a critical violation unless they come in contact with a surface where workers prepare your food.

"Of course it's some level of a problem but it doesn't necessarily mean that the food has been compromised in any way," Tofteberg said.

The manager says he called in professionals to deal with the rodent problem, and it didn't seem to be an issue when Channel 2 made an unannounced visit.

He says he's found plenty of things he was able to clean up.

"Like this wall, and behind the wall. A lot of… grease. Look at this, my shelves," Il-Yong Cheung showed the now-clean areas.

Perhaps the message has gotten through at the Peking Wok restaurant, because just a few days after its Jan. 13 inspection, and a few days before Channel 2's visit, the city shut down the restaurant temporarily due to "repeated serious violations."

"(If) the inspector can't walk out of there feeling that they would feel safe eating there, then we'll probably need to close that place," Tofteberg said.

At least two restaurants have taken some efforts to clean up their act after bad reviews from the city.

While there are restaurants in town with low health inspection scores, more than half of Anchorage's restaurants get perfect scores.

Contact Jason Lamb at jlamb@ktuu.com

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