Watch What You Eat… Or Better Yet, Watch Where You Eat. Our first article in an ongoing series of analyzing East Orlando’s worst health code violators.
By Lexie Moff
When deciding where to get a quick bite to eat, fast food Chinese might be the least appealing option in most people’s mind. However, that is Bamboo Wok’s specialty. Located in East Orlando’s Avalon Park, Bamboo Wok has been gaining notoriety lately for all the wrong reasons.
If the customer complaints of food poisoning and bugs in the food are not enough to deter Avalon Park residents to skip eating at this establishment, perhaps the numerous serious health code violations will give customers pause next time they think about going to Bamboo Wok. Since opening in 2008, Bamboo Wok has received over 100 health code violations, some basic – but most intermediary or critical infractions, according to county & state records aggregated on Flawless Fork – a site that collects and publishes this data.
The customer reviews on “Yelp,” an online community for amateur and professional food critics, leave Bamboo Wok with 2.8 stars out of 5; mediocre at best. The reviews praise the restaurant for their affordable prices, but agree that the quality and customer service mirrors the old adage that “you get what you pay for.”
The evaluations agree that portions are too small and the flavors are bland and watered down. Although Bamboo Wok is in the heart of the Avalon, the majority of reviewers would rather drive elsewhere to dine. Aside from the sub-par customer service and lack of quality meal options, customers have been buzzing of food-borne illness as a result of the cuisine at Bamboo Wok.
Breanna Panto, an Oviedo resident who has dined frequently at Bamboo Wok while visiting friends in Avalon Park, said that each time she has eaten at the restaurant at least one person has come away feeling sick.
“It does not surprise me that people are getting sick. I’m just glad that I have not been exposed to any contaminated or improperly cooked & prepared food. After seeing the long list of health code violations, I doubt we are going back,” explained Panto.
Longtime Avalon Park resident Victor Collazo had a different take. “I eat there often and have never had any issue with food quality or a negative physical reaction,” explained Collazo who has eaten at Bamboo Wok since they opened in 2008.
The complaints of foodborne illness are of no surprise if you have read the recent health inspections of Bamboo Wok. An inspection done for Bamboo Wok on April 4, 2014 resulted in 9 basic violations, 5 intermediate violations, 4 high priority violations, and a follow up inspection. The basic violations include normal grease and dirt problems one would expect during a surprise health inspection. These infractions are not as concerning as the basic violations that include dangerous food storage. The intermediate violations also are related to improper food storage and keeping food past its expiration date. These in my opinion are some of the worst violations, because food past the expiration date may have harmful bacteria in it.
The customer reviews reflect that the food at Bamboo Wok lacks freshness and one could infer that this is the result of expired food. The most disheartening infractions are the high priority violations. Those that have been trained in food safety, such as myself, know that the danger temperatures for food are those that lie within the range of 41 degrees and 135 degrees. Food, especially meat, that sits out until it reaches temperatures above 41 degrees are at risk for growing bacteria and spoiling. Bamboo Wok has had several violations in this area – including vegetables and cooked meat/poultry sitting out for hours and well above 41 degrees. Among the high priority infractions, they found that raw chicken had the possibility of coming into contact with cooked meat, which can cause salmonella.
The health inspector came back for a follow up inspection in June of 2014 to find that Bamboo Wok did meet inspection standards, but who knows what discomfort it caused individuals who ate there during April or during the past 6 years while they have been racking up violation after violation.
We made several attempts over the past few weeks to get comment from the owner about the health code violations, but were repeatedly hung up on by employees when trying to get their side of the story.
When deciding to where to get a quick meal, it is always important to check the reviews of a proposed eatery. All health inspections are published online as public record and it may be beneficial to access them before trying somewhere new. Hopefully Bamboo Wok will keep up the changes they have implemented for better food safety. Although Bamboo Wok has fixed their most recent violations, it may be in Avalon consumers’ best interest to satisfy their Chinese food cravings at the local Wok and Roll – though they to have over 100 health code violations, but at least the food isn’t as bland right?
Lexie Moff is a philosophy & pre-med student at the University of Central Florida and currently works in the new UCF Health Center.