Darien health inspectors find health violations at eateries

DARIEN — Darien health inspectors discovered broken refrigerators, failure to wash hands and unsanitary cooking conditions at a local restaurant in the last quarter of the year.

Three local restaurants and the Darien Depot failed health inspections from September to December. Under state guidelines, failing means a restaurant received a score of less than 80 out of 100 or a four-point violation, reserved for offenses that could harm customers or employees and It needs immediate improvement.

Darren additionally uses a letter-based system in its health inspections with grades A for excellent conditions, B for acceptable and C for business in need of improvement.

According to health director David Knauf, the system is designed to take into account a restaurant’s history, including whether there are repeated violations. It is also intended to encourage restaurants to make rapid improvements as a less-than-perfect rating on performance can affect business.

During a December inspection, Thai Time was flagged for two four-point violations, including a flooded sink causing a lack of hand-washing and refrigeration not being kept cold enough. Additional notes include improperly thawed meat, improper food storage, and unclean cooking surfaces.

The restaurant failed its follow-up inspection in January, correcting the hand-washing violation but not the refrigeration temperature. Additional notes included needed repairs on the dishwasher, proper sanitation for the appliance, and some insect repellant.

This isn’t the first time the restaurant has been asked to improve. The most recent January rating marks the fifth time since May that Thai Times received a C rating. In that time, it has not received an A.

Thai Time manager Koupsert Sisaurath said they worked to fix the problems identified, but that Darien’s standards are “crazy high” compared to other municipalities.

After several relatively excellent ratings, Craps Choupette suddenly dropped from an A to a Fail C in December after an inspector reported 11 other risk factor violations as well as a four-point violation for lack of hand-washing.

According to health inspectors, violations included no training for staff members, no washing of products, unhygienic handling of food and utensils, and unclean kitchen surfaces.

Owner Adil Chokeri said the inspection came at a busy time for the relatively new business and while the establishment was short on staff.

“I cannot argue with them as I feel it is their right to observe and I am ready to learn from them,” Chokairi said. “They are doing their job and I take their criticism as a healthy concern for improving my business.”

While staff hygiene was fixed in early January, the restaurant still sits at a B for unclean refrigeration and general smog in the kitchen. The restaurant was also fined for not showing the ratings.

Chokeri said that because the staff cooks all the food in front of the customers, it can be challenging to clean thoroughly compared to a hidden kitchen during busy rush hours.

He also said that a rating is not fixed, and that he is always listening to the health department for improvements on any concerns they may have.

“Sometimes the system of ratings can influence the perception of the customers,” he said. “There’s a difference between what good food is, why I eat here, and what it’s rated for.”

Pho Fans Vietnamese faced a four-point violation in September when an inspector found that refrigeration temperatures were no lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit, putting food temperatures in the danger zone.

Since then, the restaurant has received an A grade during inspections—immediately after its failing assessment and again in late November—with recognition of its significant improvements included in the inspector’s notes.

A representative for Pho Fans did not respond to requests for comment.

Outside the restaurant, the Depot Youth Center ran into trouble in September when inspectors found that its refrigerator was not maintaining an adequate temperature. The business was also cited for molding an ice machine.

Laura Downing, the depot’s executive director, said the depot was aware the fridge was broken and was making arrangements for repairs when the inspector arrived. Everything was already taken out except some soda.

“They gave us a few days to recover and we did. They came back and everything was great,” she said.

Depo now has a perfect score. The surprise visit may have an unexpected benefit as Downing said she hopes to arrange for the inspector to return to talk about food safety for the depot’s life skills program.

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