[UPDATED on 15 January 2015, 8.45am: Hotpot Culture owner admits there was a rat in the buffet dish]
Hotpot Culture’s owner Lim Choon Kok admitted that a rat was found in the salted vegetable dish. He also sent a warning letter to the chef for the incident, reported The Straits Times.
Rat droppings and two more rats were found at the premises of Marina Square's Hotpot Culture restaurant, days after news broke of a rat carcass allegedly being found in one of its buffet dishes.
The National Environment Agency said it will also be taking action against the eatery, saying it can be fined up to $2,000 and six demerit points upon conviction.
In a statement on Wednesday sharing findings from its investigation, the agency said it found dried rat droppings on the floor of the store room as well as on a false ceiling in the restaurant's kitchen.
"A gap was found in the wall of the storeroom near the ceiling, and another one in the false ceiling of the kitchen," a spokesperson for the agency said on Wednesday. "These could be possible points through which rats can gain access into the kitchen."
The NEA said they have since "required" the restaurant to seal the gaps, apart from ensuring proper housekeeping and ordering "intensive pest control treatment", this especially after pest control caught two more rats on Sunday.
"NEA takes such lapses seriously and will not hesitate to take errant operators to task," its spokesperson added.
Last week, Yahoo Singapore reported news of the customer who found and photographed what she believed to be a rat carcass in a dish at the restaurant's porridge buffet, and that the NEA had suspended the outlet pending its investigation.
Ms Caron Chan, who declined to reveal her occupation, was with four other colleagues at Hotpot Culture’s free-flow porridge buffet at Marina Square when they made the grisly find.
According to her, a colleague had spotted what she thought was a rat’s tail in a vegetable dish. Chan then proceeded to scoop out the rest of the mystery meat, to discover to her disgust that it was a whole rat carcass.
She then approached a staff member.
“The staff member didn’t even react quickly, she handled something else first, then came to us and told another employee to remove it. She just said sorry and that they would serve a new batch,” said Chan.
“What about the other customers who already ate it? That was so gross. They should have quickly stopped operations.”
Completely turned off by their find, Chan and her colleagues left the restaurant without paying, but informed the table next to them, which had already eaten the dish.
“The lady at the table next to us told us that she was still charged by the restaurant. She has already lodged a complaint with the National Environment Agency,” said Chan, who posted photos of the rat dish on her Facebook account, which has since been shared widely.
When Yahoo Singapore called Hotpot Culture, the manager on duty said she was unaware of the rat incident.
“As far as I know, I just heard that the dish wasn’t fresh and so we replaced it,” she said.
When pressed further for information from the management, she took down the contact of this reporter and said the owner would be in touch.
Additional reporting by Lester Nyan