Darien health inspectors find health violations at restaurants

DARIEN – Darien health inspectors discovered broken refrigerators, failure to wash hands and dirty kitchen conditions at local restaurants in the last quarter of the year.

Three local restaurants and the Darien Depot failed health inspections between September and December. According to state guidelines, a failure means a restaurant received less than 80 points out of 100 or has a four-point violation, reserved for violations that could cause harm to customers or staff and require immediate correction.

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

According to Health Director David Knauf, the system is designed to take into account the restaurant’s history, including whether there are repeat violations. It’s also meant to encourage restaurants to make improvements quickly, as a less-than-perfect score on the screen could hurt business.
During a December inspection, Thai Time was flagged for two four-point violations, including failure to wash hands due in part to a flooded sink and refrigeration not being kept cool enough. Additional notes included poorly thawed meat, improper food storage and dirty cooking surfaces.
The restaurant failed its follow-up inspection in January, correcting the violation for hand washing but not for refrigeration temperatures. Additional notes included necessary repairs to the dishwasher, proper disinfection for tools, and some pest droppings.
It’s not the first time the restaurant has been asked to improve. The most recent rating in January is the fifth time since May that Thai Time has received a C rating. In that time, it has not received an A.
Thai Time manager Koupasert Sysourath said they worked to fix the problems identified, but Darien’s standards are “crazy high”, much tougher than other municipalities.
After several relatively excellent scores, CrĂȘpes Choupette suddenly dropped from an A to a failing C after an inspector reported a four-point violation for lack of hand washing along with 11 other risk factor violations in december
Violations included failure to train staff, failure to wash produce, unsanitary handling of food and utensils and dirty kitchen surfaces, according to health inspectors.
Owner Adil Chokairy said the inspection came at a very busy time for the relatively new business and while the establishment was understaffed.
“I can’t argue with them because I think it’s their right to do the inspection and I’m willing to learn from them,” Chokairy said. “They are doing their job and I take their criticism as a healthy concern for my business to improve.”
Although the staff sanitation had been corrected in early January, the restaurant is still at a B due to dirty refrigeration and general fog in the kitchen. The restaurant was also penalized for not displaying its rating.
Chokairy said that because the staff cooks all the food in front of customers, it can be difficult to thoroughly clean it during a busy run compared to a hidden kitchen.
He also added that a rating is not set, and he is always listening to the health department to improve any of their concerns.
“Sometimes the rating system could affect (the) perception of customers,” he said. “There’s a difference between what’s good food, why I eat here, and what’s rated.”

Pho Fans Vietnamese received a four-point violation in September after an inspector found the refrigeration temperature was not kept below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, putting food in the temperature danger zone.
Since then, the restaurant has received A grades during inspections, both shortly after its failed assessment and again at the end of 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 of restaurants, the Depot Youth Center ran into trouble in September after inspectors found its refrigerator did not keep the temperature low enough. The business was also cited for mold in an ice machine.
Depot chief executive Laura Downing said Depot knew the fridge was broken and was in the process of arranging repairs when the inspector arrived. All but some sodas had already been taken out.
“They gave us a few days to fix and we did. They came back and everything was great,” he said.
The Depot now has a perfect score. The surprise visit may have an unintended benefit, as Downing said he hopes to arrange for the inspector to return to speak about food safety for the Depot’s life skills program.