GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – The basement of the old XO Asian Cuisine restaurant was like a scene from a horror movie: roaches, food stored below leaky sewage pipes and dead rats.
They were among the many serious, health-threatening violations that led the Kent County Health Department to shut down XO in April 2016.
Now, more than a year later, XO no longer exists.
It is Soho Sushi, and you could almost eat off the basement floor.
But Soho continues to live in XO’s shadow.
“It’s so different, it’s a different restaurant, it’s a different owner,” said Rita Yan, who said she owns the restaurant with her husband and another couple who recently moved to West Michigan from New York.
The health department said the owners are new. They took over in October, and Soho opened in December.
State records for both the former XO and the new Soho show no names in common. Yan said there is no relationship between the old owners and the new owners.
During an interview with Target 8, she broke down in tears.
“I just sometime come here to clean, myself. I clean everything, the basement,” she said.
She said she works 14-hour days, cleaning before the restaurant opens and after it closes.
According to county health reports, it’s working. At its first inspection in January, the county found no serious violations.
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With a three-hour notice, she gave Target 8 a tour — of the sushi bar, of the kitchen, of the basement, where supplies are stacked neatly. She showed us the new sewer pipe.
It all makes her wonder: “I think, why the customers, they didn’t come back,” Yan said.
They try to lure customers with half-off sushi most days but still, empty seats.
“When the people talk about Soho, they still talk about XO,” she said.
Online reviews question Soho’s lineage, and show former customers are more than reluctant.
“It’s unfair,” Yan said.
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It was the Kent County Health Department that shut down XO, after years of violations and warnings, and that found nothing serious at Soho.
The health department calls it a success story.
“Absolutely, yes,” said Kent County Health Department Supervisor Max Bjorkman. “It was a change of ownership, new owners.”
“They’ve been doing a really good job. So far, they’ve been making food safety a priority, and that’s what we like to see,” Bjorkman said.
“We’re just new people, new restaurant,” Yan said. “I hope the customer(s), they can come back, we can show it’s high-quality food. We try to do the best service for the customer.”