A Manhattan couple made a vomit-inducing discovery Saturday after they allegedly spotted a stewed rat in their takeout order that had been delivered by one of their favorite local restaurants.
Eunice Lucero-Lee and her husband, Jason Lee, felt their stomachs churn when they discovered the dead rodent buried in a soup/stew dish the couple ordered from a Korean restaurant called Gammeeok, located 9 West 32nd St. The rat, the pair said, was inside a traditional Korean soup/stew dish called gukbap, which typically includes vegetables and beef — but no other creatures.
Eunice Lucero-Lee, who is originally from the Philippines, said her husband made the shocking discovery while they were eating their order.
“My husband pushed back the table and went to throw up because he just found a rat in our food… it was pretty awful,” Lucero-Lee told amNY Metro.
“The worst part is I was already halfway through mine and he was almost two thirds of the way through his when he was like, ‘what is this lump?’”
“And what he initially thought was a vegetable, was apparently the [rat’s] tail.”
Lucero-Lee said she also vomited, and the couple ended up going to an urgent care facility, where they were prescribed antibiotics. She said they were afraid of picking up a bacterial disease like Leptospirosis from the rat, or digesting rat poison.
She said the incident was particularly upsetting, since they have been customers there for years, as have many of their friends.
Lucero-Lee took to Instagram on Tuesday to share her story and warn people about eating at the restaurant. The post, which includes images and a video of the rat in the gukbap, has gained plenty of traction — generating more than 1,700 likes and around 300 comments as of 9 a.m. March 16.
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Claims of a runaround
Lucero-Lee said she was prompted to go public with her experience following the couple’s interactions with the restaurant’s manager after they discovered the rat. She said the couple called up the restaurant to complain, but claims she was met with unsympathetic ears.
The manager there, Lucero-Lee alleged, initially responded by offering them $100 and their money back. Then, after consulting with the owner who does not speak English, the manager offered the couple $5,000, according to Lucero-Lee.
She alleged that the manager was supposed to call them back but didn’t do so in a timely manner — so they rang the restaurant again, but this time they were brushed aside.
Nevertheless, Lucero-Lee said, the couple was not interested in financial compensation but were instead seeking an apology — which, she claimed, never came. She also believes the restaurant should have ceased operating immediately on Saturday based on the discovery.
Lucero-Lee said she is worried about other people consuming food from the premises.
amNewYork Metro could not reach the owner or a manager of Gammeeok for comment. The company also operates a restaurant in New Jersey, according to the company’s website.
However, the restaurant via its Gammeeok Instagram account responded to Lucero-Lee’s post by denying her claims.
“We are sorry for this situation,” the post reads. “What is posted on SNS is not the truth.”
“We have been regularly inspected every two weeks by a disinfection company for several years, and there have been no traces of mice.”
The Gammeeok Instagram post also claimed that the couple went public for financial purposes.
“They demanded money and threatened, and since we refused, they are attacking us through social media,” the post reads. “Therefore, we plan to take legal action.”
Lucero-Lee said that the company’s response only made the situation worse. She said she wants the operators of the restaurant to be held accountable.
“Instead of reaching out and being compassionate and apologetic — and ask how they can help and fix the situation — they were kind of doubling down which literally adds insult to injury,” she told amNY Metro.
Not making the grade
Lucero-Lee also drew attention to the restaurant’s inspection rating, a C — the lowest mark a restaurant can receive to remain in operation, according to the city’s Health Department. The company had also racked up 79 violation points when it was inspected by the Health Department in January, a failing grade.
“Establishment is not free of harborage or conditions conducive to rodents, insects or other pests,” reads one of the violations.
Other violations include staff personal cleanliness being inadequate, and food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use.
Furthermore, another violation reads: “filth flies or food/refuse/sewage associated with (FRSA) flies or other nuisance pests in establishment’s food and/or non-food areas. FRSA flies include house flies, blow flies, bottle flies, flesh flies, drain flies, Phorid flies and fruit flies.”
amNewYork Metro asked the Health Department. to comment on the incident as well the restaurant’s violations. The department said it is investigating the couple’s findings.
Meanwhile, Dennis Carrion, the couple’s attorney of Carrion Accident & Injury Attorneys, said that the couple will be taking legal action in the coming days against the restaurant.
“My clients support small business owners but feel they must take action to do their part to help protect all New Yorkers,” Carrion said in a statement to amNY Metro.
“The public deserves to feel safe when they order food for their families [and] the only way to guarantee this is to hold bad actors accountable. While most NYC restauranteurs undoubtedly place food safety as their highest priority, an incident such as this, as flagrant and grotesque as it is, is a stark reminder that some may not have their priorities in order.”