Story by ALEXIS LEFAVOR
A Sandy restaurateur with a series of health-code violations has reopened his Asian fusion restaurant weeks after the county shut it down after inspectors found nearly three-dozen infractions. But the restaurateur still faces challenges to ensure that his patrons don’t get sick after eating there.
In February, the Ichiban Sushi & Asian Cuisine, located at 109 W. 90th S. in Sandy, had its permit suspended after Salt Lake County Health Department inspectors found violations that exceeded risk levels by fifteen-fold during a routine health inspection.
Inspectors noted that “multiple floor drains in the kitchen were not draining properly and were backed up with waste water,” and “sewage remnants are present from backed up floor drains,” according to a report posted on the department’s website.
Other violations included fish not being stored at the proper temperature, and areas where the wall paint was in such disrepair that chips could have fallen in uncovered food.
The owner of the Sandy restaurant, Leming Lin, did not respond to a request for comment through the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Ichiban had a follow-up inspection on March 2 and later had its permit reinstated, according the health departments website. An inspection was done at the time and was marked with five critical violations.
The violations found during the subsequent inspection included cans that were dented severely, possibly adulterated food and areas around the back door showing signs of cat litter.
Nicholas Rupp, the county health department’s spokesman, said restaurant closures aren’t taken lightly. Once an establishment is closed its owners are required to meet with the health department the next day and prepare a corrected plan of action, he said. Sometimes restaurants can be closed for weeks at a time to fix the violations. A restaurant can close and reopen twice within a calendar year without penalties, depending on severity.
The Sandy Ichiban was placed at the health department’s highest risk level – four – because sushi and other offerings served can possibly cause food borne illnesses. As a restaurant opens the health departments categorizes it by a risk level between one and four. Risk level four restaurants are inspected three to four times a year, as well as any time that a customer complains, Rupp said. These levels are determined by three main factors: food items served, food handling and the volume of people they serve in a day.
The county identifies two types of violations—critical and non-critical. These are presented on a point scale. Non-critical violations are worth one point and critical are worth up to six points, and the in-between of the two violations is three points.
According to the recent inspection report, Ichiban had 31 critical violations. More than half of those violations were three-point violations, and nearly the rest were six points. One was rated at 100 points — the worst level – which is rarely given.
When it comes to raw fish, customers should be ensured that their food is being handled and prepared properly. Jessica DeAlba, a recent visitor at the restaurant, said she had a horrible experience. She said she have eaten someplace else.
Though the sushi may be cheap it might not be the best option.
Ichiban has several locations across Salt Lake County. But inspections come down to each individual restaurant, no matter the owner or whether it’s a part of a chain. “The owner can’t be present at every location every day,” Rupp said. Ultimately, it’s the manager of the location’s job to ensure good practices by the employees. The purpose of proper restaurant sanitation is to safeguard public health by ensuring customers are provided with food that is safe and unadulterated.
DeAlba said that she never looked at the health inspections before going to Ichiban, but now she does for every new restaurant she visits.
“I do not ever plan on ever going back there,” she said. “I remember the restaurant was very dirty, the booth seats were falling apart, the food came out warm and the strong smell of feces and cleaning chemicals affected the taste of everything.”
Wendy Hobbs, another recent visitor, had a five-star experience. In her Facebook review she said, “Prices were unbelievably cheap. Will definitely come again.”
Before speaking with a reporter she had not noticed the cleanliness issues at the restaurant. Like other people, Hobbs had heard about – and visited – Ichiban through word of mouth.
“I’m glad they shut down. Good food or not,” she said. “These guidelines are in place for a reason. And it’s the responsibility of the owners/management that they are up to code.”
Health inspections are available to the public. For more information, go to their website.