And then one of the diners made the gruesome discovery: “Hey, there’s a dead mouse here!” Sure enough, only half a metre from the dining table, between a large vase and the Tastes of Asia cooking station, was a very much deceased mouse
USUALLY, your choice of rodent is kept alive until the moment of cooking or, at the very least, until the point of sale.
This is Cambodia, and the lack of refrigeration in this part of the world often necessitates that meat products (animals) arrive at the kitchen in the condition nature intended: breathing and conscious.
Of course, lack of refrigeration is not a concern at the 5-star Hotel Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort, which has brought the finest of French hospitality to the jungle of Siem Reap, in Cambodia. Here, rat is not on the menu, though a nice ratatouille might be…
This particular evening, following an apsara dance performance accompanied by complimentary glasses of French Chardonnay, we repaired to the exclusive Citadel Restaurant and sat at a large, round table next to the Tastes of Asia cooking station for our APT Mekong River Cruise farewell dinner.
The French wines continued to flow, polite conversation was made, the day’s mobile phone pictures of the historic Angkor wat temple were compared, promises to stay in touch were made, and delicious roast beef tenderloin was consumed.
But… there was no avoiding it: a sickly, sweet, very much “off” odour hung in the air, gently wafting to and fro on the noiseless aircon breeze. Diners glanced at each other. Discreetly, at first. Then, somewhat accusingly. This was, after all, Asia and digestive gas emissions can, at times, behave not exactly as intended. But surely discretion could be exercised is these salubrious surroundings.
And then one of the diners made the gruesome discovery: “Hey, there’s a dead mouse here!” Sure enough, only half a metre from the dining table, between a large vase and the Tastes of Asia cooking station, was a very much deceased mouse. A closer inspection determined that it had been there for some time, given the state of decay and rancid smell.
It may well be a delicacy – in a fresher state – for the villagers in the jungle outside of the sprawling Sofitel compound, but not so in the Citadel Restaurant. Mousse yes, mouse no!
This was an appetite-shattering moment. Some at the table smothered gasps of shock, others tried to attract the attention of a waiter without causing public alarm. As for me, I abandoned my dessert, grabbed my half-empty glass of merlot, sought a refill from the semellion, and headed for the outside seating and the fresh night air.
The mouse incident was an unfortunate “hiccup” for an otherwise enjoyable stay at the Sofitel Angkor. The staff were fabulous, the room immaculate, the facilities first class. The only other aspect I could fault is that insistence by French hotels in hotter climates on spraying the gardens and surrounds with mosquito suppressing insecticide each evening. Sure, it gets rid of the mozzies. But it also eliminates other insects, and consequently the more welcome wildlife that feeds on them. Which means no birds, and no lizards or frogs.
But, obviously, it doesn’t stop the mice…