TAMPA, Florida— Sarku Japan is one of those food court restaurants eager to offer up free samples.
"That's how you know whether or not you want to eat there and what the flavor tastes like," said Pricilla Morra after accepting a piece of chicken on a toothpick from an employee trying to entice customers.
But what unsuspecting customers like Morra might not know is that the Sarku Japan inside Tampa's University Mall was shut down by the state as an emergency closure May 7th after a food safety inspector documented 40 violations. The problems included temperature abuse on the chicken, cooked rice and pasta; a black or green mold inside the ice machine; and live roaches, including one found in the clean dish rack. The inspector watched as an employee "got rid" of one roach then went back to working with food without washing their hands.
There was also evidence of rodents with droppings throughout the kitchen by the prep tables, near the mixer, under the slicer, and on top of soy sauce containers. There was also what appeared to be "rodent urine" on a pan in the clean dish rack.
"Oh, wow," said a shocked Keisha Solomon. "I don't want no more chicken. I don't want it!"
10 News shared the long list of violations with other customers as well.
"You want to make sure you're eating out somewhere that is sanitary, that you're not going to get sick from," said Morra after swallowing her free sample. "It's extremely concerning."
Worse yet, some of these same violations, including the roaches and rodent activity, showed up two months earlier on the restaurant's March inspection, but the establishment was allowed to remain open after an inspector found the violations corrected the following day. So are the issues really fixed now? We stopped in and asked for permission to check out the kitchen.
"No, no, no … I can't make decision …. You can come back tomorrow," said an employee identified by coworkers as the "manager" on duty.
The employee also refused to provide a copy of the restaurant's latest inspection report, claiming she was just a low-level employee and that our camera was scaring her.
"Maybe you can come back tomorrow?" she suggested again.
Customers we talked to heard enough, some even demanding a refund on the spot.
"Oh, no," shouted Solomon. "Give me my money back."
Take a look at Sarku Japan's entire inspection history here.