by Amy Silverman
I'm going to be brutally honest here.
If they'd given the AIMS test when I was in school, that's where I'd be today -- in school.
And if Maricopa County's restaurant inspectors came to my own kitchen, I'd fail that test, too.
But I'm damn glad we've got those pesky inspectors poking around local restaurants, because let me tell you, they find some nasty stuff. True, the test is tough -- you better not have a knife out of place or an employee smacking gum, when the inspector comes a knockin'. Just getting a less-than-perfect score doesn't disqualify your joint as a place I'd visit -- some major offenses are pretty minor, in the scheme of things.
Still, I've been reading these reports, in preparation for our newest Chow Bella feature, "Gross Out," and yeah, I'm officially grossed out. Amongst the wrist-slappings for open beverages in the kitchen and lack of proper food service credentialing are some pretty grody grievances.
Each week, I'll bring you something from the latest batch of reports -- a smorgasboard, if you will, of unappetizing tidbits about Valley restaurants (and maybe even a day care center or two, I see them on the reports as well). It's nothing you can't get yourself online at maricopa.gov -- just plug in your favorite (or least favorite) spot, but I will get the most current reports out there for you.
And so, with no further ado, and in no particular order, here are my picks (or not-picks) for the week. The county gives each inspected restaurant a designation of Gold, Silver or No Award. These three all received "No Award" in their current inspections (and some going back farther -- again, it's all available online).
Feel like a nice, icy frappa-whatever? Well, be warned, because more than one Starbucks report I saw mentioned mold on the ice maker (one mentioned "pink mold" -- ack! the dreaded pink mold!). The worst was the Starbucks at 4340 E. Indian School Road, where in June the inspector noted (along with improper employee hand-washing techniques):
"INSIDE OF ICE MACHINE HAS AN ACCUMULATION OF SLIME MOLD".
It should be noted that the problem was fixed on the spot. But bummer if you'd aleady guzzled down a venti iced latte earlier in the day, befure the inspector arrived!
Another bummer? The lack of hot water at Kabuki Japanese Restaurant, 2000 E. Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe, at least one day in May.
I'll be honest: I'm not down with the whole raw fish thing. (Or the fish thing in general, but that's a whole other story -- I'm not going to bore you here with my phobias; we'll stick to dirty restaurants, I promise.) If I WERE to eat raw fish, I wouldn't want it to be from a place that had no hot water for -- according to employee reports -- at least a day. Lucky the inspectors showed up and the owners closed the place down, although when I called recently, a nice hostess insisted Kabuki never has closed since its opening at the beginning of the year.
In any case, the "No Award" report for Kabuki (its second, it failed in February, too) noted dirty and excessively long fingernails on two different employees (one long, the other dirty), as well as a mysterious "UNLABELED BULK WHITE FOOD IN KITCHEN," according to the inspector.
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Finally, we have Tortas El Guero, 2518 N. 16th Street, a favorite of our food critic, Michele Laudig, who used an expletive when I told her about this. (She hasn't been to Tortas El Guero in a while. Here's her review: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2007-06-14/dining/drive-thru-detour/.) Frankly, most of the concerns -- the lack of food handler cards, the white cheese left out, or the container of el pastor (spicy pork) stored on the floor of the walk-in refrigerator -- bothered me.
But the following did stop me:
"RAW TURKEY TAIL PLACED ON TOP SHELF AT NORTH END OF WALK IN REFRIGERATOR ABOVE READY TO EAT HAM AND RED SAUCE. ASKED COOK TO REMOVE RAW TURKEY TAIL AND PLACED ON BOTTOM SHELF"
I'm not sure there's ever a good way to talk about raw turkey tail.