Dirty Dining: China First Buffet shut down twice by the state for roach activity

TAMPA - This wasn't the first time one customer we talked with had eaten at China First Buffet on Fowler Avenue in Tampa, but she says it's her last.

"We just wanted to have a nice time as a family but we were unsatisfied. We wanted to literally walk out," said the customer, who did not want to be identified.  She also told us the food on the buffet tasted old.

"I've got to search for hot pieces of food?  No, that's not good at all," She went on to say.

And temperature violations have been an issue at this restaurant.

On January 11, inspectors found wings, chicken, pork, beef, pasta, shrimp, and shrimp salad either not hot enough or not cold enough.

The state also shut down China First Buffet for 19 hours after finding 46 live roaches inside large containers of rice, near the rice cooker, and dish area. The eatery had to throw out 50 pounds of rice and 5 pounds of shrimp salad after the inspector found them exposed to vermin.

"Can I speak to a manager?" asked ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan, as she entered the restaurant.

"Yes, I'm the manager here. How can I help you?" asked general manager Joyce Lin.

But Lin did not want to comment about the recent closure, even though its not the first time it happened.

On October 11, 2011 a state inspector recorded seeing more than 168 live and dead roaches in various parts of the restaurant and kitchen, shutting down the eatery for almost a day.

And in the last ten months, China First Buffet accumulated 115 critical violations. These numbers were not surprising to customer Ivy Neacsu.
"You could tell it wasn't fresh," said Ivy.

Ivy came to the restaurant with her extended family and felt the food just wasn't right.

"It was bad, it was cold, and you could tell it was old," Ivy explained.

Other critical issues documented in 4 follow up inspections on October 11, 2011, October 4, 2011, March 24, 2011, and October 4, 2010 included food stored on the floor, food not date marked, and raw chicken stored over uncovered Jello.

"I think people just want to know that you've cleaned things up. Do you want to show us what you've done to clean things up?" Ryan asked Lin.

"I don't want to do that, sorry. It's no comment," Lin said.

But her customers had plenty of comments.

"Now I'm even more sure we're not coming back here," Ivy said.

"It's not good. We are not coming back here no more," said Alisha.

Ryan tried to call China First Buffet's owner, Saiyuan, several times, but she never returned any calls.

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