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Thai Tom facing possible closure due to health violations

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Onions are prepared during lunchtime for a customer's entree.

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Kevin Sotka enjoys a dish at Thai Tom. He drove from Queen Anne on his day off just to eat there.

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An employee adds spices to season the dish.

Those seeking Thai food in Seattle face a dilemma when it comes to the popular U-District restaurant Thai Tom. Some have raved about the food, but two health-inspection reports from this year revealed cockroaches present, food containers stored on restroom floors, and employees who didn’t wash their hands before handling food.

Now the restaurant is due for another inspection either this week or next, said Thu Bui, the environmental-health specialist who has already inspected the restaurant twice this year.

If health inspectors find serious, repeat offenses during this upcoming inspection, they could close Thai Tom and levy a fine against the restaurant.

But Jackris George, Thai Tom chef and manager, said this should not be a problem; he said he had explained health regulations to his employees.

“Right now everyone’s doing what I say,” he said. “It’s way better.”

The restaurant already closed following a July inspection on a tip alleging that cockroaches had crawled past a dining customer. The owner then scheduled a conference with employees of the public-health department the next day, Bui said.

When employees of the public-health department had heard from the owner regarding how he would correct the problems and prevent them from happening again, the restaurant was allowed to re-open.

But following the one-day closure, inspectors nearly closed the restaurant again after an October inspection.

Some of the restaurant’s more egregious violations involve hot and cold holding temperatures, or the temperatures at which food must be kept in order to avoid bacterial contamination. For instance, chicken and rice noodles had been at room temperature when they should have been stored at temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

George, however, claimed they have a difficult time storing food because of the size of their restaurant.

Due to the cramped quarters, Bui said one solution could be to limit their menu options, reducing the quantity of ingredients stored in the restaurant.

All of these health violations do not add up with the generally positive press Thai Tom has received. Online city guides offer four-star reviews, and reporters from the local press, The Daily included, have raved about the food and front-row seats to the cooks’ tofu-frying performances in the restaurant’s open kitchen. Numerous award stickers emblazon the restaurant’s storefront.

Nonetheless, some online reviewers have begun to notice the July and October health reports and have avowed to stay away from the business for health reasons. Others, however, have continued to praise the restaurant for its food and atmosphere.

Reach reporter Andrew Doughman at news@dailyuw.com.

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