MANHATTAN – Filth flies, roaches and evidence of rats were all found during a recent inspection of an acclaimed Filipino restaurant on the Upper East Side once praised for its authentic eats, forcing the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to shut down Bilao on First Avenue.
Founded in August 2020 by three nurses who work at Mount Sinai that couldn’t find a traditional Filipino breakfast in the area, the restaurant located between East 74th and 75th Streets opened to rave reviews.
In its first few months of serving the Upper East Side, Bilao earned the New York Times Critic’s Pick designation, was featured in EaterNY and even appeared on the Today show.
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Now, a large yellow notice is posted on the Lenox Hill shuttered eatery, the words “Closed by order of the Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene,” printed in large black all-capital letters for passers-by to see.
During an inspection by the Health Department on April 29th, Bilao racked up nine violations— eight of the critical— and a whopping 67 violation points.
In addition to the presence of filth flies, roaches and evidence of rats, inspectors noted that hot foods were kept at dangerously low temperatures while cold foods were kept too warm.
Food surfaces were also not sanitized at Bilao and food dispensing utensils were not properly stored, according to the DOHMH report. Inspectors closed the restaurant that very day.
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The closure likely would not come as a complete surprise to some customers, who noted cleanliness and infestation issues in multiple Yelp reviews dating back to last summer.
“There is a lot of flies in the dining area!” wrote customer Shanie C. in July 2021.
“Where the toilet area is there is a lot on the wall! I told the receptionist and the server but it seems they don’t even care,” she added.
“There were also a lot of small flies in the bathroom and a few in the dining room, we were swatting some away from our food,” wrote Angelina S. this past March.
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“The bathroom stinks and small flies are flying in the bathroom during winter? How much more during the summer?” asked Nieva M. on Yelp in early April.
Upper East Site tried to reach Bilao for comment on the closure, but those efforts have not been successful. We’ll update this article accordingly.
Update: Bilao reopened after being reinspected by the Health Department on May 19th.
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