LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It may sound crass to say 'frass' but in reality, that's the technical term for roach feces.
And there was plenty of that and the roaches that left it behind at Pho MaiLan on Eastern Avenue and Sunridge Heights.
Pho MaiLan was shut down June 25 for a multi-generational cockroach infestation. It also got 34 demerits.
"I don't want the camera. I can talk to you openly about what happened -- I'm okay with that -- but the law allows me not to be on the camera," said Pho MaiLan owner Stevis Nguyen when Darcy Spears arrived. And he did talk about all the violations, like black mold in the ice machine chute, a strainer pot stored upside down on the dirty floor and cook line equipment -- like the stove -- excessively soiled with grease build-up.
Inspectors also noted multiple areas for roaches to hide and breed in the cabinet area, grouting and unsealed baseboards.
They found the freezer floor dirty with food spills, trash and debris.
And lots of food in the temperature danger zone that had to be thrown out.
Nguyen said the he knows his staff made mistakes and he had to fire his pest control company, but as the boss, he says the buck stops with him and he takes all failures as his own. He called the inspection process a learning experience.
Pho MaiLan was back to a 5-demerit A grade on July 1.
But while one man shied away from the camera, another greeted it with open arms.
"We always have As in the past and this is the first C grade," said Peter Vu. He owns Pho Saigon 8 on Rainbow Boulevard and Maule, which got a 40-demerit C grade on June 24.
"One more and the Health District would've shut you down," Darcy Spears pointed out. "So what happened that day?"
"So I admit this was a disaster," Vu said. "Some of it was our fault but some I think it has to do a lot with the language barrier and culture difference."
For example: date labels. His staff writes month, then day so he says the Health District misinterpreted things as expired when they were not. The inspection report shows tofu dated back to early May, meatballs from April and kimchi and cooked pork from March.
Vu says they explained to the inspector that the food was fresh and the discrepancy was just in how they write dates, but it still resulted in demerits.
"Some inspectors are more strict than others," he observed. "I know they're just doing their job, but..."
Other violations included shelves lined with heavily-soiled foil, dirty cooking utensils, equipment and floors and uncovered sauces, soups and cooked chicken in the fridge.
"That was our fault so we fixed that. I'm not saying we're perfect. We're human. We have flaws. But we did correct what was our mistake." Vu says the biggest issue is inspectors who are inconsistent in enforcing the rules.
"We need to know what's expected of us."
In his experience, one inspector says something's fine but the next might find fault and he says that hurts the industry as a whole, especially in the Asian community.
He's hoping inspectors will take the time to better educate themselves on Asian culinary customs and that customers will give him a second chance.
"You're telling me how hard you're working for two years to build up your business and then something like this happens and you almost get shut down and you get the highest demerits and wind up on Dirty Dining," said Spears. "What's your message to your customers?"
"I feel very disappointed in myself for getting a C grade but I can guarantee the customer that we don't serve bad food."
Pho Saigon 8 was back to a zero-demerit A grade on July 2.
Las Famosas de Jose on East Twain Avenue near Paradise Road was shut down June 27 for a multi-generational cockroach infestation.
Large German and small American roaches were seen coming from the wall and floor behind and next to the ice machine and sink area. There was also a large amount of roach feces on the outlet next to the ice machine.
Numerous flies were landing on tables, clean food containers and clean equipment during the inspection.
Inspectors found chicken at room temperature, food stored in an unapproved outdoor shed, a dirty cutting board, can opener and deli slicer and black mold in the ice machine.
Walls behind the ice machine and fridge were swollen, bulging, dirty, peeling and in disrepair.
The floor was dirty with wet cardboard and debris.
The outdoor grease catch wasn't being maintained and was swarming with flies.
Las Famosas de Jose was back to an 8-demerit A grade on June 28.
The owner said his pest control company let him down so he fired them and has since hired a new one, but he disagrees with the term "infestation" and claims inspectors only found two cockroaches. He emphasized that they were closed for less than 24 hours and quickly returned to an A grade.
Repeat offender Antojitos Guayabitos food truck was shut down June 26 for two imminent health hazards: no water and a pest infestation. But in this case it was not roaches. The truck was infested with flies that were landing on equipment, food contact surfaces and food containers.
In addition to the imminent health hazards, inspectors wrote up 39 demerits for things like heavy grease and food debris build-up, no sanitizer solution on the truck, a dirty vegetable slicer and shrimp empanadas at unsafe temperatures that had to be thrown out.
Antojitos Guayabitos was back to a 5-demerit A grade on July 5. Our calls for comment were not returned.
Click here for the health report from Pho MaiLan
Click here for the health report from Pho Saigon 8