A live roach made himself at home at our table recently, a sight you never want to see when dining out.
And he had company, another roach wiggling its legs in the sushi bar case.
"It kind of makes me sick," said customer Jessica Ramsey, who spotted the bug.
She was having lunch at Hiro's Tokyo Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar at 5250 Fourth St. N. in St. Petersburg and called us over.
She tried to point out the bug to a friend, but it scurried away. We alerted Hiro's staff to the roach.
"Being in Florida, there's a lot of bugs," said General Manager John Takacs.
He told us he felt good about Hiro's conditions until we showed him video of the other roach on our napkin.
"What's that look like to you?" asked Ryan, showing him the video.
"That's a cockroach," Takacs admitted, but then tried to defend the sight.
"Unfortunately, you cannot get every roach in a restaurant. And you'd be hard pressed in the 16 years I've been in the business to find a restaurant that doesn't have one or two or three. And it's unfortunate when a customer happens upon that," Takacs said.
But it wasn't just customers. State inspectors saw a few dozen dead roaches April 30 along the walk-in freezer, cooks line, cooler next to the miso soup and under the sushi bar.
"It's hard to keep up with the pests when they're as rampant as they are down here," Takacs said.
Also rampant? The restaurant’s 233 violations written up in the last 12 months. And it's nothing new. The state has fined Hiro's $3,440 for other food safety violations in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
"When an inspector comes through here, they tell me what's wrong and a lot of it I correct onsite. Ninety percent of those things are corrected onsite," Takacs said.
But patrons could have gotten sick last year from various pieces of sushi kept at temperatures that weren’t cold enough and other food not stored in temperatures hot enough.
The food above 41 degrees inside the cooler included salmon at 50 degrees, tuna at 48 degrees, eel at 48 degrees, whitefish at 53 degrees, shrimp 53 degrees and tofu at 50 degrees.
Other items that should have been warmer than 135 degrees included fried sweet potato kept at 70 degrees and tempura grouper kept at 72 degrees.
Takacs blames it on the time the items are delivered.
"When it comes in, it's not going to be at the temperature as it is when it's served. So it's a lot of gray area on what they expect from us and what we put out," he said.
This last year inspectors returned nine times for follow-up inspections but Takacs said he knows how to handle it.
"We don't want to make anyone ill. And I do hold these guys to a high standard and make sure the public enjoy their time here and don't get sick," Takacs said.