As soon as I read about the Bugs Cafe in Siem Reap, I knew that I had to try it. Touted as an “Insect Tapas and Cocktail Bar,” Bugs Cafe specializes in- you guessed it- insect dishes and delectable mixed drinks. Never ones to pass on a culinary adventure, we made it a priority to have dinner there one night.
We started out with one of their signature cocktails, Cambodian Fever, made with rum, sombai ginger chili, papaya juice, mango, lime and cilantro. I love jalapeno margaritas, so I thought I knew what I was in for- but this cocktail was really spicy. It was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the mango and papaya, though I made the mistake of not using the straw and burning my lips on the chili. After going back to the straw, I was much happier.Now, onto the real reason we were there: the bugs. The menu was extensive, and had interesting preparations for grasshoppers, silkworms, bees, ants, crickets, tarantulas and scorpions. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much trouble deciding what to order, mostly because I had never tried anything like this before. We finally decided to share one of the Discovery Platters, which came with 2 Wild Spring Rolls, 1 Insect Skewer, 1 Mediterranean Feuillete with Ants, 1 Tarantula Donut and 1 Cricket & Silkworm Wok.First up was the Tarantula Donut. I liked this one because it looked exactly like a deep-fried tarantula. Taste wise, it was also one of my favorites. If you closed your eyes and didn’t think too much, it tasted like soft shell crab. Rating: 4/5 Next was the Wild Spring Roll, filled with the usual suspects: cabbage, carrot and ants. Since it was fried to a crisp, the crunch of the ants blended right in. It tasted pretty much like a regular spring roll. Rating: 4/5Third, we dined on Insect Skewers. Here, we had our choice between spiders, giant waterbugs or grasshoppers. Playing it safe, we chose the grasshoppers. I didn’t care for the grasshoppers; I found them to be too crunchy and membraneous. Pieces of exoskeleton kept getting stuck between my teeth. The grilled peppers, onions and tomatoes were tasty, though. Rating: 2/5 We took a breather from the hardcore stuff to enjoy the Mediterranean Feuillete. This was a puff pastry filled with a surprisingly good pesto and ants (local ants, to be exact, according to the menu). This dish was pretty benign, though I think it could have used a little more pesto. And possibly more ants? I couldn’t really taste them. Rating: 3/5Finally, we shared the Cricket & Silkworm Wok. They had four different flavors to choose from for the wok: Hot, Coconut Curry, Green and Mediterranean. They all sounded pretty good, and we went with Mediterranean (olive oil, pesto, parmesan cheese and cashews). This was about when I decided I was finished eating bugs for the night. The crickets, like the grasshoppers, didn’t have a pleasant texture and kept getting stuck in my teeth. The silkworms, by contrast, were soft and juicy. I kind of liked them, until Alex pointed out how they “popped” in your mouth. Again, thinking too much was my downfall and I had to put my fork to rest. The overall flavor was good; maybe I would have liked it better with different bugs. Rating: 2/5I’m happy that we tried out the Bugs Cafe. The menu was fascinating and everything was well-prepared. I discovered, though, that I just don’t like bugs that much. I recommend giving it a try if you’re in Siem Reap- even if the bugs freak you out, they make a killer cocktail.