Eating out in Tahiti is an interesting and wonderfull experience. The Island is heavily influenced by French cuisine with an Island twist. The restaurant scene is simple yet tasteful, reflecting the abundance of local seafood and island crops. There are not a great many high end eateries around, aside from a few very prestigious Michelin styled (not starred) restaurants. Instead there are many small beach side restaurants or little places hidden in unambitious looking buildings.
Roulottes (Food trucks)
The average street food dining scene revolves around food trucks, or Roulottes. These trucks open their doors as soon as the sun hits the surf at night. They mostly serve huge portions of steak and frites or American style pizzas. Not the most inspiring food, but a good deal, price wise. There are a few more interesting Roulottes around that sell a take on Asian cuisine or a more refined version of fast food. A food truck generally does not have a liquor license, but you can always ask for a Tahitian cola, which translates to an undercover plastic cup of local Hinano beer. It’s mostly decent food, but at Tahitian prices. A simple meal can end up to be quite expensive, like everything else on Tahiti.
Tuna (Posoin Cru)
Another Local delicacy is the Tuna of course. During our passage we only had the luck to capture a small one just outside Panama. For the rest of our journey the Tuna have tormented us, stealing just about every lure we had aboard and playfully splashing about the bow. But in the waters surrounding Tahiti there are a great many tuna’s present. And the local fishermen are a lot more successful than us in capturing these delicious creatures.
During our stay the export of Tuna to the rest of the world grounded to a halt due to the Corona madness. Local Tuna ended up on discount, much cheaper than a juicy steak at the Carrefour supermarket. It is served in the restaurants as Possion Cru, which means as much as raw fish. Chopped up premium tuna with some raw unions and coconut milk, quite refreshing and delicious. Like most food in Tahiti, it is often accompanied by a family portion of french fries. I often brought a chunk of tuna back to the apartment to slice up and just eat with some wasabi and soy sauce. The stringy tendon pieces where destined for the apartment cat, scruffy.
The breakfast galette
Breakfast or brunch often revolves around the Galette, a savory pancake folded around fried eggs, ham and brie or some combination of those. Quite filling and satisfactory. Or just a simple pain de coco (local coconut bread) dipped in black coffee. Or maybe this odd combination was just something JP used to do, don’t quite know if this is truly a Tahitian tradition.
Hidden gems all over the place
Even though the local dishes on Tahiti are interesting, flavorful and yum. After a couple of weeks you start to urge for some variation. For this it helps to befriend the locals, as they know where the diamonds are hiding. Often the best restaurants are hidden in unpretentious looking buildings. When you look around you can find almost anything on the Island. We found a couple of surprisingly good Chinese restaurants as JP, having lived in Macau for many years, was still in love with all things Cantonese or Haka. With help from my Masonic brethren we also found a surprisingly good pub / steakhouse hidden amongst the industrial back-lands of Papeete. Foursuare or Google maps is reasonably up to date for the Island, during one of our drives around, the managed to locate this little gem around Taravao, chez Loula and Remy. It doesn’t look like much, but they do some very nice French cuisine in a very welcoming Island atmosphere.
Meat, in the form of barbecue, is another local delicacy. Twice a week a big ocean freighter threads through the narrow canal of the Papeete commercial harbour. With the help of a tug or two and the experienced eye of the local pilot, the large container vessel moors along the dock, dwarfing everything in the marina and the town. From our first apartment near Faaa, we had a clear view of the proceedings as they happened.
The freighter brings the best meats and produce from New Zealand and Australia, supplying the islands with a wealth of culinary goods. The local Tahitians gobble the meats up from the supermarket in so called family packs. Big packs of prime beef or lamb to roast on the barbecues of the people. Every weekend, starting early Friday, the smells of roasted meat fill the air, waking up the appetite of the Island. On a friday late afternoon it looks like the island is on fire, with the smokes of the BBQ’s rising from every garden and roulotte.
During our stay we enjoyed a couple of wonderful feasts in JP’s garden with amazing home cooked food. Enjoying the company of friends and family. Music is a big part of Tahitian life, as at the feasts people bring out some instruments and start playing local Tahitian music till deep in the night. Linda even learned to play the ‘bora bora’ song on a ukulele at one of the evenings.
The gardens of the Islanders are filled with fruit trees from all over the world. The Marquesas limes are famous among the crop. But also papayas, stone fruits, peaches, jack fruits, bread fruits and much more. Along the roads you fill find many stalls selling whatever falls of the tree at that moment. Fruits and gardening are a part of daily life, be it growing, selling or consuming.
The Beer (Hinano)
Hinano beer is one of the worlds best kept secrets. Only exported to a few countries is makes for a rare find in the local supermarkets. Produced in the Punaruu valley since 1955 with ingredients from all over the world. The malt come from France and Australia, the hops from Germany, Czech Republic and United States. But the secret ingredient, the sparkling fresh water, from the mountains of the Tahiti rainforest.