TAMPA, Fla. - China Star on East Fowler in Tampa is known for its New York style Chinese take-out. But on June 28, a state inspector ordered a temporary kitchen closure documenting 22 violations, 11 considered critical.
Among the problems: cooked chicken held at an unsafe temperature; food stored on the floor in the walk in cooler; an employee touching ready-to-eat items with their bare hands; a toxic substance stored next to food; and roach activity, including 30 live roaches found under the kitchen sink, 15 between storage shelves, and another five found under the cook's line hand sink.
More roaches were also found in glue traps, according to the state.
China Star was allowed to reopen the following day, so we wanted to find out if the issues were really corrected.
"No, no... everything is clean... Clean, clean, clean," insisted manager Linda Lin when we showed up asking for permission to inspect the kitchen.
Eventually management reconsidered, permitting us access into the kitchen where we found soap for employees to wash their hands and food in the walk-in cooler now up off the floor.
"It's very good...everything clean," said the cook, who did not provide his name.
We asked about all the roaches and what the restaurant did to get the problem corrected.
"We have a company... clean... every month," said Lin, who later brought us a pest control receipt from February.
But after just a few minutes, we spotted a bug crawling around in the back storage area. The bug was limping around like it had been treated by pesticide, but was still alive.
We found other violations including raw meat left uncovered in the walk-in cooler. There was also no copy of the restaurant's latest state food service report available for public inspection as required by law.
When we shared information on China Star's June violations with unsuspecting customers some seemed uneasy.
"I think I've heard enough. I'm not going in. I appreciate you telling me though," said customer Ralph Radhay.
Management says they've worked hard to make corrections. "My restaurant right now... everything clean, yeah... food is good, yeah," said Lin.
But customers like Radhay say the damage to China Star's reputation is done. "I don't have trust. If you have these things documented that you found it, I don't have trust to eat there."
Take a look at China Star's complete inspection history here.
Have a tip about a dirty restaurant? Email us at RedAlert@wtsp.com .
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