It’s pretty difficult to take an organization seriously that awards a higher cleanliness grade to the grubby Tasty Chicken by our apartment (A), than to Thomas Keller’s three Michelin-starred Per Se (C). And certainly, there’s no love lost between NYC’s restaurant industry and the Department of Health, whose head-scratchingly arbitrary ratings system is almost universally panned as a for-profit racket, designed to bleed money out of small businesses through ludicrous rules and sky-high fines.
But as if penalizing back-of-house staff for not wearing gloves (which, hello, hold on to bacteria much more readily than a pair of regularly washed hands) wasn’t enough, the DOH has continued to demonstrate how devastatingly and consequentially out of touch they are with the basic tenets of food prep and safety.
According to Crain’s, in addition to new proposals requiring restaurants to sanitize utensils in ammonium solution, wait for an official inspection before opening, and slap labels on homemade juices warning of the possible presence of pathogens, an exceptionally Draconian regulation will effectively cleanse the city of sushi. Yes, the DOH is going after fish, requiring restaurants to first freeze any piscine specimens intended to be served raw, marinated, or otherwise “undercooked.” Which, if you’ve ever choked down a tasteless, lifeless and formless filet that’s been rescued from the deep-freeze, you’ll know strikes a death blow to any and all spots specializing in sashimi, ceviche and crudo. Hell, depending on how deep this directive goes (and really, there’s nothing we’d put past the DOH at this point) it could possibly even jeopardize NYC’s beloved national dish, bagels and lox, or kill Brooklyn’s delightful plethora of dollar oyster happy hours.
Of course, we have a hard time seeing how this economically disastrous frozen fish edict could possibly go through (what, New Yorkers would have to cross city limits for a spicy tuna roll)? That being said, it might be time to make that bucket list visit to Masa or Le Bernardin—because if the DOH continues on this questionable track, soon, all we’ll have left is the cryogenically preserved fare at Tasty Chicken.