What's for lunch? A cockroach, if you're eating at Da Lat

Thumbnail image for cockroachdalat1.jpg
What's for lunch? A cockroach if you're eating at Da Lat.
I had just finished eating mole at a brilliant Oaxacan restaurant in Santa Ana, California when my phone beeped. And there it was...an upside down cockroach dead on its ass on a plate. The offending restaurant? Da Lat, a Vietnamese joint on Federal Boulevard that just last month made my 100 Favorite Dish list for its seafood hot pot -- the exact same dish that Heather Miller ordered on April 20. The same dish that harbored one of the most loathsome insects in our habitat: a cockroach.

And Miller, who promises that she doesn't hold any of this against me, included with her photo a play-by-play account of exactly what unfolded that day at Da Lat:

Here's the full story. I went with two friends. One of whom had seen the write up on Da Lat in Westword. We walked in around 11:45 and it was dead. One friend immediately interpreted this as a bad sign over the lunch hour. The other convinced us to stay.

The staff was very friendly, and eventually two other guests came to dine.

We ordered combination papaya salad and that came first, followed by the spring roll platter (which I will say was skimpier, and veggies were nowhere near as fresh as Saigon Bowl, and twice as much in terms of cost), and then the seafood hot pot. I had eaten most of the soup, when I looked in my bowl and noticed what I thought was a part of a mussel "beard" -- then I noticed it was moving. I very calmly said to my friends, "I don't mean to alarm anyone, but..." and I held up my spoon.

Emily started yelling, "I told you we should have left! You didn't listen to me!" And the friend whose recommendation it was, was laughing so hard he was purple.

Oddly enough, the waiter never came to ask us what was wrong -- we were pretty vocal and the restaurant was dead. Our friend finally called him over and showed him the spoon and asked for him to take that off the bill. The waiter's response was, "Oh no, that's no good."

Personally, I thought the entire meal should have been refunded, but it wasn't.
There you have it. I did post the photo to my Facebook page and tagged the restaurant -- beware the power of social media! ;)

I called Da Lat and spoke with Steven Tran, the server who delivered the seafood hot pot to Miller, and while he was apologetic, he also insisted that the restaurant's pest control company had been to Da Lat to rid the kitchen of the creepy crawlers -- but when I asked him if he could supply proof, he back-pedaled and said that he'd put in a phone call to the company, which would be out shortly to fix the problem...except that Tran maintains that there is no problem. "It was an accident in the kitchen," he tells me. "We don't know how it got there, but that was the only cockroach in the restaurant, and the people who came in, they enjoyed their food."

Sure they did, because if you found a cockroach crawling on your plate, wouldn't you ballyhoo it to the world?

Miller's story also makes us wonder what other foreign objects/rodents/insects you've unearthed while dining out. Tell us what you've discovered in the comments section below, and we'll give the reader who makes our stomach turn the most an EatDenver dining deck.

Location Info

Dalat Vietnamese Cuisine

940 S. Federal Blvd., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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25 comments
Weege
Weege

I manage a large restaurant in Aurora, if a hair is in the food, its called a Nuclear Mistake. I guess i can call this a Cock-Block..

Guest
Guest

Thank you, the statement  "that was the only cockroach in the restaurant"made me actually laugh out loud.

Zamora Carl
Zamora Carl

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Zamora Carl
Zamora Carl

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-WFK-
-WFK-

I had a friend tell me once, "That hair in your food bothers you but the dead animal is ok?" He was right... 

GFTW
GFTW

Wow, guess it's safer to stick to the God-awful chain restaurants Jennster recommends!

Doughboy
Doughboy

It's an interesting ethics issue to me.  No doubt this will get undue attention for one probably random dining event.  It can indicate a larger infestation, or it can simple bad luck.  Is it really right to report it and publicize it?  I  guess Westword will have to answer that question for themselves but for me I probably wouldn't report it.  I was in one of the best restaurants in Denver three weeks ago, and I had the very unpleasant experience of having something caught in my teeth from my salad, and when I tugged it out, it was a long black hair.   I practically gagged, but you know what, I didn't complain about it or say anything because I knew it would spoil the good time with  my wife and friends.   And what could the restaurant really do about it?   Is a 50 dollar refund going to fix anything if it was an accident?  It's a hair, and who knows whether some poor kitchen practices led to it being in my salad or whether it was just was bad luck.   You are naive if you don't believe they haven't eaten all sorts of feces, mucus, hairs, bugs, ecoli, salmonella etc. from their own kitchens or from the finest restaurants in the world.   The quality of restaurant can probably lower the probability of these things happening, but eliminating them altogether is an impossibility.   A cockroach isn't going to kill you, and you will just have to accept it as one of the risks of living in this world.

backbeatmod
backbeatmod

At least it wasn't in anyone's ear. I saw the worst video on the interwebz the other day of one being removed from a little boy's ear. Terrifying. Sleeping with one eye open now. On a more related note, I once ordered a drink at a hotel bar in Las Vegas and found a fingernail in my drink. Equally as terrifying.

Jenn
Jenn

Maybe the cockroach was a garnish? I mean, sure, you can get parsley anywhere else, but roaches....now that's some out-of-the-Raid-box accoutrement.

Jack
Jack

HOW DARE SHE! Finding rodents in restaurant food is perfectly normal, and from the looks of that one left in her soup bowl, the critter ate pretty well before his untimely demise--the restaurant should've charged her for the added protein and fiber content via cockroach add-on.

 

Cook at home
Cook at home

I wouldn't of paid them a penny.  The fact that they're about to spray the kitchen with pesticides is equally disgusting.

Mantonat
Mantonat

I've worked in restaurants and have seen flats of produce come in with various insects. You do your best to make sure everything gets washed and the bugs don't make it into the final product, but given the volume of service in most restaurants, it's only a matter of time. How the restaurant deals with it says alot. They've probably lost a customer, so comping a whole meal really doesn't do any good, nor does offering to replace the dish as the diners have probably lost their appetite by that point. Refunding the price of the dish and being polite and apologetic without being obsequious is the best way to go, as the server at Da Lat demonstrated.

The worst I've seen was a small chunk of fur-covered hide (cow, pig, other?) that came in with a batch of sausage at a pizza restaurant.

Uncledave8
Uncledave8

Well, we Americans are mighty squeamish about restaurants.  A LOT goes on that you don't see, especially if you eat out abroad.  I once worked at 5 Star Diamond yadda yadda restaurant and saw the chef take the head off a rat with a cleaver as it ran across the kitchen.  The Garden Terrace was cockroach heaven in the winter because it was warm and humid.  Long story short - there are bugs in most restaurants - especially older ones.  Fortunately not many end up on your plate which is actually kind of surprising.  Reputable restaurants do make an effort to mitigate the problem through hygiene practices and exterminators but cockroaches have been around longer than humans for a reason - they are incredibly determined and resistant to departing from some place warm where there is food.

Bagwhan
Bagwhan

While I no doubt think this is disgusting, is this really something that should be posted in Cafe Society?  Should we send y'all an email every time we fine a hair, bone, etc in our food that shouldn't be there?  Seems like something that should be the concern of health inspectors and maybe a yelp review, and not something posted here.

Jim Rome
Jim Rome

I saw Dave Barnes out one time while at Axios.  Boom.  Winner right there.  Looking forward to my Dining Deck.

Sigh
Sigh

 So maybe it's like finding the baby in a King Cake??

Whoknows
Whoknows

You wouldn't "have" paid them. Which is ridiculous. Your entire meal should not be comped because of a problem with one item. They did what was appropriate in the situation. I'm so tired of everybody looking for a free lunch. We all--including those working in that restaurant--are just human. Mistakes happen. Bugs happen. They get into our houses and into restaurants. If you don't like it, don't go back. This blog is immature and in bad taste.

monopod
monopod

I agree with you in principle, but a live cockroach actually in a dish served by a restaurant recently recommended in these pages seems worthy of notice, especially given that the restaurant's response doesn't sound entirely reassuring.  

Weege
Weege

My love life?

Cook at home
Cook at home

Are you joking?  There wasn't a minor issue with the meal, there was a f+%*ing cockroach in her soup!  I would love to hear how you would of handled the situation.  "I'm sorry about the cockroach, but i do hope you enjoyed the rest of your meal."  If I owned that business I'd attempt to appease that customer so they might not tell everyone the truth about my restaurant.  In retrospect, I bet the proprietor would of happily eaten the $40 tab to avoid all of this negative press.  If you work in the restaurant industry I'd love to know where you work.  Oh and I'm sure you'd expect the customer to tip on the full tab, before the entree was removed from the bill.  Am I right?

Jim Rome
Jim Rome

 The appropriate response is comp the meal, kiss some ass and offer to take care of them on their next visit as well in hopes that something like this doesn't make its way to Westword, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  It is not a fly in the soup, it was a fucking live cockroach.  I would have puked on the spot.  But what do I know, I'm not in the 'industry' all I know is charging for 2 bug free meals cant make up for this negative PR.

Bagwhan
Bagwhan

Sorry, I don't think that makes a difference.  What difference does it make that it was mentioned here?  So, any time we eat at a restaurant recommended on Cafe Society and have a bad experience, we should email Cafe Society?  Or only when it is a bug?  Or only when the restaurant didn't handle it the way we'd like?

I'm not suggesting that the restaurant doesn't have a problem, though I also don't know if they do have a problem; "Waiter, there's a fly in my soup" is a classic joke opener, so it's not like this is as uncommon as it is gross.  And it does seem like they didn't handle it well.  But that should lose them a customer, or more customers if the health inspector comes down on them or the disgruntled customer writes a bad review on Yelp.  But now they just lost a LOT of customers, because Cafe Society chose to publish THIS report.  Will they now publish every new report of insects served in food?

hold the roaches
hold the roaches

Well said Jim.  I'm glad this photo/article was published, if you recommend a dish you later find out is served infested you better damn well come clean.  Well done Lori.  

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