Rats, cockroaches and maskless workers, oh my! Mountain View restaurant Biryaniz is struggling to clean up its act after a series of pest infestations and health citations that caused county inspectors to temporarily shut it down three times in three years.
The Mountain View Voice published a detailed review of Santa Clara County health documents showing that inspectors shut down the eatery after finding pests in its kitchen and ingredients, among other violations — findings that Hoodline has confirmed in the county documents.
The Indian restaurant's manager told the Mountain View Voice that it has been struggling with persistent rats, but that the problem has been solved and customers should feel comfortable supporting the business. Manager Stanley George says he's confident that the next county inspection will show improvement, according to the paper.
Judging by a County of Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health inspection report from Feb. 3, the restaurant had a ways to go. "Observed cockroach on cutting board," states the unappetizing report. "Observed live cockroach under three comp sink. Observed rodent droppings on counter next to cold hold inserts, on food cart next to stove, on top of counters, on top of food containers, on floor around mixer, on floor in dry storage area, on shelves in bar area and on floor in bar area."
The inspection also noted that employees weren't wearing face coverings, in violation of COVID-19 masking requirements.
That inspection led to the third and latest closure of Biryaniz. The restaurant hired pest control and reopened the next day. When the health department followed up a few weeks later, they allowed the restaurant to remain open when they found only "several dead cockroaches on the floor."
Biryaniz currently has a health score of 58 out of 100. This is up from its lowest score before the closures of 44, one of the region's lowest, according to the MV Voice.
Biryaniz opened in Mountain View in 2017, replacing another Indian restaurant called Shalimar Sizzle that briefly operated at the location, Palo Alto Online reported at the time. A representative told that outlet that the Mountain View Biryaniz was connected to several other local restaurants by the name that are in Milpitas, Dublin and Rancho Cordova.
In 2018, the restaurant's health score fell from 68 to 44 over concerns around poorly heated food and unsanitized dishes, the MV Voice found, and health officials observed a worker take out the trash, come back inside and then eat rice from one of the containers with his bare, unwashed hands.
Then in 2019, the pest problems hit. The restaurant was temporarily closed down when health inspectors found a cockroach in an open ghee container and various live and dead cockroaches around the food prep area on July 9 and 10, 2019, county reports reviewed by this news organization show.
The county allowed Biryaniz to reopen a day later after it brought in pest control, and the restaurant passed a follow-up inspection the following month, only to be hit with another closure just over a year later -- this time over signs of rodents.
"Observed rodent droppings in dry storage area on top of food containers, in open food containers and along the floors," reads the report from Sept. 28, 2020, which also cited the restaurant for unmasked employees. The restaurant passed a follow-up inspection the next day, though, and was able to reopen.
Which brings us to the February closure, when all the health woes came together in the triple threat of cockroaches, rodents and maskless workers cited in the report that we quoted at the start of this article.
Biryaniz manager George told the MV Voice that the pest control service it hired overlooked the cockroach problem but has now eliminated them as well as rats -- at least for now. "We have a rat issue that's prevalent in this particular downtown area, so we are doing our best," the outlet quoted him as saying.
According to the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, Biryaniz is one of three restaurants in Mountain View that county inspectors have temporarily closed for health reasons. One other, a 7-Eleven, was closed for the same reason as Biryaniz -- "Food is subject to contamination from vermin." The other was closed for failing to provide adequate hot and cold water.
Throughout the county, health inspectors temporarily closed 58 restaurants in the last six months, 24 of them for vermin contamination.
Yikes. Just when we were ready to get back to dining out.