Brenda Khan, manager of Renaisa Indian Restaurant, was less than enthused over a recent review and hasn't been shy about letting me, and my New Times editors, know about her displeasure. Her emails have objected to the way the write-up, a dual review of both Renaisa and Heelsha, not only portrayed the former in an unfavorable light, but read, as Khan asserts, like "a paid advertisement for Heelsha."
There has been bad blood running between owners of the two operations ever since last spring, when Tipu Rahman, who was managing Renaisa, left to open Heelsha and took with him the chefs, waiters, and, according to Brenda, "everything including the kitchen sink -- literally."
It is true, as she states, that in the review I did not mention that the new manager of Renaisa is "Dhaka Club Inc." -- Khan's uncle. And Khan is adamant about letting us know that Rahman "was nothing more than an employee...nothing was ever in his name or his wife's, and he was evicted after six critical food violations and seven non-critical violations and he would not clean up his act." In a follow-up email she reiterates that Tipu "was just a cook for my Uncle when this restaurant first started, and then was given the opportunity of a management contract...he was never an owner of nothing, not even the licenses to operate this business."
And that's part of the problem: Those violations Kahn refers to include citations for operating "without a current Hotel and Restaurant license," "for the manager lacking proof of Food Manager Certification," and for "no proof of required employee training provided." Kahn forwarded two health inspection reports to New Times. The first report, dated March 29, 2005, contains six violations, the most serious being "uncovered food" and "exit lights not properly illuminated." The latter, from February 14, 2006, contains thirteen violations, including the lack of licensing. Some of the others:
*Observed build-up of food debris, dust or dirt on nonfood-contact surface and uncovered food in holding unit/dry storage area.
*Hood suppression system tag out-of-date, as was the portable fire extinguisher tag.
*Observed water draining onto floor surface, wall in disrepair, and floors not maintained smooth and durable.
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Kahn is correct to point out that these violations occurred while Rahman was managing the place, but property owners take ultimate responsibility on such matters -- even more so when many of the violations had to do with the condition of the premises, not the food. Rahman claims to have never even seen the citations. "I did not know about these violations. Not at all. I was never shown the paper."
Rahman goes on to explain that he had a verbal partnership with the Kahns, but "These people gave me a very bad time. They never gave me the money they owed. They owed me sixty thousand dollars -- I have everything written -- but when they didn't give me any money what could I do? I had to get out."
Rahman also denies breaking or taking any equipment, and claims to harbor no ill will towards his former employers. "I did not have a lot of experience when I began at Renaisa, but I did well because I had the passion. I do not cook to make money. I am an honest person and I cook because it is what I love to do. I have no competition with Renaisa."
Evidently the feeling isn't mutual.-Lee Klein
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