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Not Cool Enough:
Gordon Biersch, 640 Emerson St., Palo Alto

By Kelly Luker

HERE'S A BIT OF NEWS to make GB lovers choke on their Hefeweizen: Potentially hazardous foods like chicken, beef and seafood are regularly being stored at unsafe, bacteria-nurturing temperatures at the popular bar and grill, according to county inspection reports.

All nine times health officials inspected the brewery over the past two years--including the most recent inspection on Feb. 9, 2000--they found temperature violations, seven of them listed as major. All the violations were for improper storage of cold foods, which health officials say need to be kept below 41 degrees to stop tummy-turning bacteria from growing.

Here's a sampling of the recorded temperature infractions: cooked shredded chicken measured at 50 degrees and chicken wings at 48 degrees (Feb. 9, 2000); skewered beef and chicken held at 50-55 degrees (Nov. 16, 1999); raw shrimp at 50-55 degrees (Nov. 16, 1999); ahi tuna at 47 degrees (June 21, 1999); cooked chicken strips at 50 degrees (March 8, 1999); meats at 51 degrees, seafoods at 51 degrees and, again, cooked chicken strips at 60 degrees (July 29, 1998).

But brewphiles shouldn't consider the trendy Peninsula hangout as a salmonella swamp.

County officials have received only one complaint alleging food poisoning over the past two years, records show. In that case, a diner groused on June 12, 1999, that she became sick 11 hours after eating the blackened ahi tuna.

Gordon Biersch general manager David Kim says his records show 19 customers ate the ahi tuna the same night, but only one complained of getting sick.

Kim adds that many of the temperature violations need to be kept in context. In one mid-1999 case, he says, the inspector came while kitchen workers were getting food ready for an offsite catering event. In that situation, Kim recalls, employees were repeatedly opening the door to the walk-in refrigerator, causing the temperature inside to go up.

According to Kim, many of the problems in the kitchen were addressed during a renovation last year. This year, Kim says, corporate headquarters has kicked in another $40,000 for equipment upgrades in the kitchen.

"Are there [health] issues [at the restaurant]? Of course," Kim says, adding, "Any type of major infraction, we have addressed immediately. ... Our record over 13 years is exemplary."

Blissfully unaware of the occupational hazards, Metro staff writer Richard von Busack dined at Palo Alto's Gordon Biersch for a September 1999 Best of the Santa Clara Valley review. Richard loved everything he munched on from the cornmeal-dusted crabcake appetizers to the "impeccable" pizza with shrimp entree. He capped the evening off with warm apple brioche bread pudding. "As icky sweet as it sounded," Richard opined, "I have to confess that the brioche bread pudding--served warm for maximum comfort--was incredible."

RATING: 4 forks

Introduction: Bottom Feeders.

Making The List: The methodology and ratings.

Not on the Menu: Gruesome complaints and bizarre things allegedly found in food.

Wok on the Wild Side: Asian restaurants still get disproportionately high rate of poor inspection reports.

Chew Fly, Don't Bother Me: Tory's Restaurant in Cupertino.

A Fowl Feeling: Mai Garden Restaurant in San Jose.

Fast Food Frightmare: Mr. Chau's Chinese Fast Food in Palo Alto.

Overly Greasy Spoon: Bob's Surf 'N Turf in San Jose.

Pastor Its Prime: El Mexicano Taqueria in San Jose.

How Fresh? Fresh N Healthy Vegetarian in San Jose.

Chill Is Gone: Nola in Palo Alto.

How Now Stale Bao? Thanh Mai in San Jose.

Coffee To Go, Please: My My Coffee and Sandwiches in San Jose.

Vermin in the Vermicelli: Florentine Restaurant in Mountain View.

Off-Screen Horror Show: Century Capitol 16 Theaters in San Jose.

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From the June 8-14, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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