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Restaurant health ratings and price

Recently, a very famous (multiple Michelin stars) and pricey restaurant in New York City was was penalized more than 40 points out of 100 by the local health department. It has had numerous bad health ratings in the past. Nevertheless, it remains very popular.

Hypothetically speaking, does a high Michelin rating or price outweigh the negative health rating? What if it restaurant was just a hole-in-the wall Chinese restaurant with delicious food?

Note: I've been informed that Chowhound policy forbids the use of actual restaurant names when it comes to health code violations.

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  1. I personally would not visit it; I expect any establishment serving food to be meet code. Especially for the price at these top restaurants, I expect top notch cleanliness (no exceptions).

    As for the hole in the wall Chinese establishment, if it is to my knowledge that they failed, no I would not visit it either.

    1. Normally an establishment has a time period to solve or fix whatever deficiencies that caused them to fail. I would probably wait to see if they get the passing grade before I returned.

      I would not knowingly visit a restaurant that has a current failed Health Inspection Rating, regardless of it's stature.

      1. I know which restaurant you write about, and I would not patronize them until they clean up their act and are reinspected AND get a very high score,

        I was apalled at the violations when I read the inspection report. This is just plain BAD management. I don't care how could the chef is, I don't want to dine in such a place.

        1. Nope. Nope....and nope.

          I am suspicious of a lot of restaurants that don't get cited for violations when they probably should. A known offender does not get my business.

          1. For me, price (or Michelin stars) has no bearing.

            I treat healthcode violations and grades like I do the daily horoscopes.

            For entertainment purposes only.

            5 Replies
            1. re: ipsedixit

              I'm not sure I care as little as you but I do agree that health codes are a little overbearing.
              The truth is just about every restaurant in the world would have trouble with some of the things the US considers a critical violation - like not keeping cooked foods at room temp. Some things are best in the no-go temp range between 40 and 140 degrees or whatever it is. That's got to drive chefs up the wall.

              1. re: caganer

                The problem is...you don't really know the whole story until you go to the health department and pull the file.

                I almost bought a restaurant once, so I did just that. The reported violations were exceedingly mild compared to what I read in the file. Really scary stuff. Apparently, you can drink beer and be "buds" with some inspectors and they give you pass after pass. Yikes.

                I never looked at violations the same way again :(

                1. re: sedimental

                  Apparently, you can drink beer and be "buds" with some inspectors and they give you pass after pass. Yikes.

                  That's true in all walks of life. Not just the restaurant biz.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Agreed. But it still doesn't want to make me eat in a place with continued poor compliance issues. One "blip" that is rectified is different than a continued problem and a poor rating.

                    I also admit to being a bit "scarred" by that experience :)

                    this place did things like drop spatulas on the floor, pick them up and flip the over the eggs, throw pans into cold water, wipe and reuse, when the dish pit got behind, the servers would just take the silverware out of the dirty water and wipe them off, recirculate leftover product on plates, etc. really gross stuff. Continued this way for years. It was a surprise to me, how much he was given a pass.

                  2. re: sedimental

                    I cooked in a pizza place and then a deli in college - at both places the boss got a phone call a day or two before each "unannounced" health inspection. Neither place was ever as clean as during those few days we waited for the inspector.

              2. It is likely that some of the violations cited by the city were actually related to the inspector[s] mis-evaluating standard sous vide cooking practices. Unfortunately, the exact nature of the violations are only generally outlined in the city's report, so I couldn't say for certain. But it is possible in this case that the ratings came about because the city's inspectors and guidelines actually don't understand food safety as well as the restaurant does.

                I asked about this topic here.
                I do remember reading a while back about specialized safety plans NYC restaurants were submitting to allow them to utilize sous vide, but I don't know if those plans allowed for realistic cooking temperatures and sous vide practices in the first place. Or whether they are still in effect.

                My point is that not all health code violations are equal. It might be that the bureaucracy is just wrong on this one.

                1. Depends on the violations. I don't know new York but the city I used to work had crazy violations that could cause grief. I worked in an immaculate restaurant and we got dinged because the garbage bin out back didn't close completely, there was a 3cm gap. Had we taken one bag of garbage out and put it beside the bin we wouldn't have lost points. Sometime the inspectors just want to find problems.

                  I suspect the restaurant in question has a clean enough kitchen I would not be concerned. I also suspect sous vide is responsible for some of the problems.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TeRReT

                    I've been through enough health inspections to know that each inspector looks for different things, or find certain things and marks them accordingly. The restaurant I'm at now has gone through two inspectors. We were required to spend several hundred more dollars making changes to the kitchen to satisfy the current inspector when the original configuration was entirely OKed by the previous one.

                    Also, I agree with some of the posters above that some of the violations are related to sous-vide cooking, especially since most meats are technically done at temperatures lower than the recommended reheating temperatures the guidelines lay out. You only follow those if you want to serve your customers dry meat.

                  2. But what if a really talented rat was cooking your meal and kept the health inspector tied in the walk-in for only a few hours?

                    All joking aside, I notice the health ratings, but they are only one of multiple factors that go into my deciding where I want to eat. Like others have pointed out, it is all so arbitrary. For example, I had a Chinese food craving a few months ago and wandered into a place near my office that does mean and delicious Cantonese cuisine.

                    Just as I was looking up at the menu above the counter, a cockroach skittered right across it and around the corner of the wall, and into (I assume) the kitchen area. I lost my craving for Chinese pretty quickly after that. And, that place had an A rating.

                    1. I've had food poisoning from shellfish on more than one occasion and it is one of the more unpleasant forms of food poisoning. If the restaurant specializes in fish and is the one I suspect it is, then I would definitely pass until some personnel changes were made.

                      1. The specific violations for the specific restaurant you are talking about include "eating in the kitchen" (umm...i would hope so! They need to taste the dishes!) as well as the common these foods are held too cold/hot.

                        This is also an initial inspection (in a previous inspection said restaurant did not do well, unpon reinspection it was graded an A) and i assume they will quickly remedy the situation and resume business as usual.
                        In the meantime i doubt they are getting an extraordinary number of cancellations.

                        1. I find all ratings to be a bit like Olympic Ice skating judges there are standards and yet somehow subjectivity always comes into play...
                          one of my favourite taco places is what you would call a "dive" but it is delicious
                          I also love love love a place that has stars and bars and zagets and medals and hoppiedoos... .. I trust them both and have never got sick and quite frankly dont care what the Rating is and would keep going to going to both of them no matter what because I like them... but then I have eaten stew served out of a 100 year old pot while sitting in the dirt in front of a shack in Appalachia by people who had little very little to share and yet shared graciously...

                          1. Here in the UK, we have a similar, national system for health rating of restaurants. I rarely read it, although other members of the extended family are more health obsessive and will refuse to eat anywhere that has less than a 3 (out of 5). Generally speaking, I will go and try anywhere and return to places if I've had a good experience. So, yes, Michelin stars or, even, generally good reviews will far outway a poor rating.

                            That said, we recently went to a place in our Chinatown that we've been to before on a number of occasions. Food was good as usual but the toilet areas (both male & female) were in a dirty and unhygenic condition - clearly long term issues of cleanliness, rather than issue swhich had arisen on the night. That sort of thing always prompts me to think - if they can have a public area in that condition, what's going on out of sight. I checked the health rating to find it only a 1 - nope, we'll not be going back.