SARASOTA, Florida — Oriental Buffet has been voted best in Sarasota for 14 years in a row. The restaurant has a legion of loyal followers, but according to state records, it also has a long list of health code violations.
"Really? You're serious?" asked one shocked customer.
We're serious. Oriental Buffet was shut down as an emergency closure with 31 violations in early April. Among the issues were standing water in the handwashing sink and a leaking toilet backing up in the employee bathroom. There were more than 25 live roaches all around the kitchen, including at the sushi bar. The report even indicated that the cook was trying to step on and kill roaches before the inspector could see.
There was also rodent activity, with seven droppings on a kitchen cutting board and too many to count under the wait station counter.
There were temperature violations on the sushi at 65 degrees, raw fish being served without proof of parasite destruction, a mold-like substance in the ice machine, and no soap or paper towels in the employee bathroom.
We shared the restaurant's inspection report with customers.
Jan Marrow Allen is a 10 News viewer who immediately suspected trouble when she spotted our crew asking questions in the restaurant. When we shared details of the inspection report, she called the violations "serious."
"I eat here. I never see cockroaches on my table. Maybe they are in kitchen or somewhere?" suggested another customer who did not provide her name.
10 News stopped in to follow up on the state's health inspection.
"We make a real good food here. A lot of customers come back," said manager May Lina Lee.
She agreed to take us on a tour of the kitchen. We found plenty of potential problems, like clutter in the kitchen hand sink, which would make it difficult for employees to wash their hands. We also spotted seafood being thawed in questionable conditions in a sink right next to what appeared to be dirty dish water.
There was still standing water and grease all over, issues known to attract roaches. So, it was no surprise when we found numerous insects. The good news? All of them were dead.
Even so, our findings still left some customers queasy.
"You need to have a clean kitchen," said Allen. "If you're going to serve children and the public, you have to have a clean kitchen!"
Take a look at the restaurant's entire inspection history here.