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! ;)
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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.