Mountain View downtown restaurant closed multiple times after health inspectors found rats and cockroaches in the kitchen | news
County health inspectors closed an Indian restaurant in downtown Mountain View three times in the past three years after finding pests in the kitchen and in its ingredients, according to inspection logs.
The string of closings, the most recent in February, sets Biryaniz apart from most downtown restaurants where temporary health closings are a rarity. It also received one of the lowest health ratings in the area, 44 out of 100, from the Santa Clara District Department of Environmental Health before it closed.
Biryaniz’s management said the issues have been resolved and customers should feel safe eating at the restaurant and helping the business during difficult times. Keeping rats out of the building is a constant struggle, said Stanley George, the manager of Biryaniz, and they are constantly on vigilance to look for holes or scratches.
“We’re doing our best to stop it and we’ve done so so far, but sometimes weird cases,” said George.
Biryaniz has been around since 2017 and previously operated under the name Shalimar Sizzle. The Indian restaurant specializes in biryani, a traditional rice dish that is served with meat, spices and other toppings.
The previous restaurant had fairly routine health violations – like a non-working soap dispenser – despite the fact that at one point the owner failed to pay his permit fees and appeared to be closed during one of the health inspections. During 2018, Biryaniz’s health rating dropped from 68, which was already among the lowest on Castro Street, to 44, with health inspectors finding poorly heated food and unsanitary dishes.
During a follow-up inspection, health officials watched a worker take out the garbage, come back to the restaurant and scoop rice from one of the containers with his bare hands and eat without washing his hands.
The restaurant first closed in July 2019 when a food inspector found a cockroach in an open bucket of ghee and seven live cockroaches “in different stages of growth” under the sink, in the storage room and around the kneading machine. The closure was maintained for a second day after eight live cockroaches as well as dead cockroaches were found.
The restaurant closed again in September 2020 when health inspectors found rodent feces in the flour and in the storage area both on and in food containers. The inspection also revealed that employees in the restaurant were not wearing face covers, in violation of COVID-19 health regulations. Biryaniz was deemed fit to reopen the next day after no evidence of bugs was found.
The final problems occurred in February when a county health inspection revealed a double infestation. The rodent droppings were back, this time on the counter, on food bins, on the floor around the mixer, and in the restaurant’s dry store. Live and dead cockroaches were also found on the cutting board and under the sink. Here, too, it was found that employees were not wearing masks.
Two subsequent inspections in late February did not result in a closure but found live and dead cockroaches trapped on a kitchen appliance, on the floor and on glue traps.
The cockroach problem was overlooked by contracted pest control services, George said, but he insisted the problem has now been resolved. But he said he was less confident about the rats, which have multiple options to enter the building and which cannot be stopped with 100 percent certainty. He insisted it was an endless fight, in part due to the aging building, where rodents can dig a hole through hollow surfaces into the kitchen in less than 45 minutes.
“We have a rat problem that is rife in this particular downtown area, so we’re doing our best,” he said. “We had a pest control agency working on it.”
However, records show that other restaurants on the block do not appear to have closings due to rodents dating back to 2019, and a company sharing the same building – the Kappo Nami Nami sushi restaurant – has not been charged with rodent or cockroach infestations .
Larry Little, a representative for the county’s environment ministry, said in a statement that its trained inspectors are tasked with tracking down health incidents while allowing companies to make corrections quickly. For the most part, he said, restaurants are willing to do whatever it takes to comply.
Even so, he encouraged customers to use the county’s website and phone app to monitor how restaurants fared on recent health inspections. Little described it as an “exceptional transparent resource” for diners to check a restaurant’s total score – from 0 to 100 – and also delve into the more detailed details of the inspections.
George said Biryaniz expects another routine inspection in late June, and he said he was confident the new score would reflect the restaurant’s improvements and careful measures to keep rodents off.