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Health inspectors from the Cambridge Inspectional Services Department visited Shinkansen in Lobdell after a complaint on March 21.
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A March 21 complaint against Lobdell’s Shinkansen Japanese restaurant prompted an inspection on the same day that found minor cockroach activity in the restaurant, according to health reports from the Cambridge Inspectional Services Department. The restaurant was exterminated the following day and three follow-up reports, including one from May 9, found no evidence of roaches, said Richard D. Berlin III, director of Campus Dining.

A Cambridge Chronicle article, published May 7, stated that a parent of an MIT student complained about “cockroaches in the sushi and Japanese bugs in other foods and the bubble tea,” as well as roaches in the basement kitchen. According to Berlin, these complaints are “inaccurate” and “exaggerated.” Berlin said that Shinkansen does not have a kitchen in the basement.

The article did not “represent the situation correctly,” Berlin said, stating that the situation was “non-critical,” contrary to what the complaint suggested. Additionally, Berlin said that the Chronicle article had many inaccuracies. Erin Smith, the Cambridge Chronicle reporter, could not be immediately reached for comment.

According to a copy of an ISD report provided by Berlin, although the health inspector recorded some cockroach activity, a full inspection of the restaurant revealed zero critical errors and three minor infractions. ISD could not be reached after repeated calls for clarification.

Ultrafast Pest Control exterminated Shinkansen on March 22, said Berlin.

Three subsequent visits by the health inspector found no evidence of cockroach activity, according to copies of ISD reports provided by Berlin. On March 28, the health inspector found “no evidence of roach activity in rice or bubble tea,” addressing the initial complaint mentioned in the Chronicle. The inspector returned April 12 and reported “no evidence of roach activity.”

The health inspector again returned on May 9 and reported “no evidence of roach activity in either upstairs or basement kitchen,” again addressing the initial complaint. Other Student Center vendors operate basement kitchens although Shinkansen does not.

Berlin said that Campus Dining “responds very aggressively to any complaint.” “This situation has been thoroughly dealt with,” he said.

Daniel Jang ’10, who was interviewed late last night, said that he found a dead cockroach in the rice of a Shinkansen meal less than a week ago. He spoke with a man behind Shinkansen’s cash register and said that the man was shocked and offered him a reimbursement. Jang said he declined the reimbursement. He hasn’t eaten at the location since and added that he probably wouldn’t go there for at least a little while longer.

Campus Dining could not be reached for comment on the situation late last night.

Inaccuracies in the Chronicle article included the misspelling of the food vendor’s name. Also, an MIT employee, not a parent, filed the initial complaint, Berlin added.

Shinkansen sales have declined since the Cambridge Chronicle article was published, Berlin said. Kenny Tang, who, along with his wife Mimi, have operated Shinkansen for two years, attributes the recent slow business to the warm weather and students’ preference to be outside and not to the roach complaint or the article. Tang also provides the Stata Center’s sushi.

“I’m not happy about it,” Tang said in response to the complaint. But, he said he didn’t mind that the complaint was made if it was indeed true.

“[Shinkansen] is a very well-run place with a very good track record,” said Berlin. “[Tang] is a good operator who deserves better. … It’s so easy to damage the reputation of a restaurant, and it’s hard to restore it. Even something not necessarily substantiated can do harm.”