This summer, Sendai City was abuzz with a leak by a former employee of the Osaka Osho gyoza restaurant chain.
"On July 24, the employee tweeted images of an infestation of namekuji (slugs) on the wall behind the refrigerator and around food preparation equipment," a reporter for a food industry publication told Shukan Taishu (Sept 5).
As a result, the city's public health department raided the restaurant. Although no slugs were found, the health department instructed the restaurant to clean up the area because it was not well maintained.
A dirty restaurant can do more than spoil your visual dining experience: Shukan Taishu recalls a fatal incident of food poisoning where five people died from eating raw meat at a BBQ restaurant back in 2011.
So Shukan Taishu set out to compile a list of ways to identify yabai (dangerous) food and beverage establishments.
"Places that are lacking in sanitary management can be risky, not only in terms of raw foods, but any type of food ingredients, including those that are heated," Masakazu Ema, a food consultant, tells the magazine. "For example, curry sauce might be prepared and then left to stand at room temperature, allowing germs to propagate. The same goes for ankake-men (noodles covered with condiments in sauce). There are cases of the sauce producing a foul smell if it is not kept refrigerated."
"Even at outlets of restaurant chains, there are places that don't strictly follow the manuals, so in the end, it's really up to individual workers. The best way to identify them is to go down the list in terms of visible slovenliness," Ema continues.
Number one on his list would be the exterior of the shop. Is the sign soiled, or the same old sign still in use for a long time? Another giveaway, Ema says, is faded labels on bottles of sake or wine.
Ryuji Tazawa, a critic of "B-grade" restaurants, is aware of small things that only a heavy user of such establishments might know.
"Some places place a blackboard with the daily specials written in chalk," he tells Shukan Taishu. "If the writing is so slapdash I can barely read it, that really puts me on my guard."
Other warning signs include signs of poor air conditioners maintenance; messy grease traps in kitchens, evident by a foul smell noticeable when walking into the shop; understaffing; and soiled menu covers.
Shukan Taishu's list of how do identify "dangerous" restaurants also included these:
-- Overall appearance
Dirty restrooms are a dead giveaway in any kind of shop. In addition, soiled doormats and chair cushions and even table legs should be checked.
-- The icemaking machine at the drink bar
Shops that leave the hand scoop thrust into the ice making machine are dangerous, as they can convey microbes from customer hands into the machine itself. The scoop should have its own receptacle.
-- Shops that don't sanitize tabletops after customers depart. This will be a must as long as the coronavirus pandemic persists.
-- Flavor and aroma of draft beer
Draft beer dispensers need daily cleaning and regular maintenance. Changes from normal flavor and aroma of draft beer is a surefire sign of problems and such establishments are to be avoided.
-- Customer reviews online
Word-of-mouth reviews on websites should be checked out. Glowing reviews exclusively may suggest that sakura are at work. (A "sakura" is slang for a person who is hired to blend in with the audience or lineup to enhance a particular scene or to create an atmosphere of good sales for a product. It can also be translated as "fake customers.")© Japan Today