LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — New, untrained staff. That was the primary problem behind all the demerits and downgrades at Ramen Kobo, according to Manager Ken Hosoki.
The restaurant on Durango Drive and Arby Avenue got a 31-demerit “C” grade on its Nov. 23 inspection but was back to an 8-demerit “A” on Dec. 1.
Hosoki said the inspector focused on things in disrepair and a plumbing leak, which they fixed right away, but he also admitted their many new employees are not as well trained as previous staff.
And that led to violations like washing hands without soap and a person in charge who couldn’t demonstrate food safety knowledge.
Other violations the inspector flagged included a bag of raw onions stored on the wet floor, scoops sitting in dirty, tepid water and ladles hanging off the side of the prep table where they were subject to contamination by employees’ clothing.
Ziploc bags of cooked chicken and a pan of ground pork had to be thrown out due to unsafe temperatures.
Raw pork was stored above cooked pork and fish roe was above cooked chicken.
Dumplings and broth were stored uncovered in the freezer.
Dirty wiping cloths were strewn around the kitchen.
The in-use sink contained heavily soiled wash water and no sanitizer.
The reach-in coolers were dirty and contained standing water.
There was accumulated dirt and standing water on floors, emitting a foul smell.
The walls were also dirty with old food.
And the health inspector was concerned about an unsafe method of cooking chicken chashu.
The restaurant had previously been cautioned about it back in 2018 but had returned to the practice.
Inspectors issued a cease and desist order until Ramen Kobo can prove the plastic bags are approved for immersion cooking in boiling water.
Hosoki emphasized that the new staff has been studying Health District paperwork, had a meeting with supervisors to go over proper procedures, consulted again during re-inspection and are now all on the same page.
When the inspector goes to wash his hands and black wastewater backs up out of the floor drain, there’s bound to be trouble.
And there was in the form of an imminent health hazard closure for Pho O Ten on Rainbow Boulevard and Warm Springs Road.
It was shut down on Nov. 24 for a sewage back-up, and it also got 28 demerits.
Other violations included expired chicken, beef, shrimp and tofu in the fridge dating back to August and September. Manager Hy Truong said he was defrosting the food that was supposedly expired but had to throw it away because he got shut down and couldn’t serve it. He says a language barrier prevented him from communicating that with the inspector, emphasizing that the inspector only looked at labels and didn’t understand the food wasn’t expired. He says business has been very slow due to the pandemic so stuff was kept in the freezer for a while.
A pan of rolls was stored uncovered in the freezer.
The dish machine wasn’t sanitizing, and vent hood filters were dirty and greasy.
And there was black mold in the ice machine. Truong said that the ice machine was not in use. "It was turned off. We have other ice that we served to customers, not from that machine. It may have looked like mold but it wasn’t mold. It was a stain."
The inspector found a bed and personal toiletries in a storeroom, indicating an employee was living in the kitchen. Truong said, "The bed is in the break room. I worked seven days a week to keep the restaurant open during the pandemic. I use the couch, which folds out into a bed, to lie down to relax my back during lunchtime when I take a break. Nobody is living there. The toiletry bag was empty."
Due to a pattern of non-compliance, the inspector cautioned Truong that continued downgrades would result in administrative action.
Pho O Ten re-opened Dec. 3 with a zero-demerit "A" grade.
Through a translator, Truong added, “The restaurant has always had an 'A' grade since the new owner took over in the summer of 2019. We were taken aback by this inspection because everything had been going well since then. This inspector is very strict and picks on every little thing. We’ve tried to request a new inspector but the Health District won’t give us someone else. Everyone is trying to follow the rules, make sure everything is clean and customers are safe to eat here. No one has complained our restaurant is dirty or that they’ve gotten sick.
"The Health District's translator doesn’t make everything understood. I feel like this inspector treats me like a criminal and the inspector is a cop. He's just looking for reasons to fine us. How are we supposed to survive and pay rent as a small business?
"We are more than happy to follow the rules if the Health District communicates properly and treats us better.”
Click here to see the health report for Ramen Kobo.
Click here to see the health report for Pho O Ten.