French Polynesia Restaurants
PK 4.4, Route du Plateau
Taravao , Tahiti
Tel: 689 570 749
Located off the beaten track in the Taravao district, at the isthmus connecting Tahiti Nui to Tahiti Iti, this small, cash-only restaurant is part of a humble four-bungalow pension. The French–Vietnamese owner, Jeannine Letivier, specializes in shellfish prepared in Vietnamese-fusion style; you can get fish or shrimp prepared at least seven different ways, from mild to spicy to mouth-in-flames. Call ahead to reserve a table, which can require a bit of finessing; flattery about the cooking seems to be the best way to go.
Amanahune , Bora Bora
Tel: 689 675 063
This exclusive restaurant—well-off the beaten path, and housed in a yellow Mediterranean-style private villa—is harder to get into than French Laundry. There are just six tables (one is located on the upper floor—try to snag it if you can), so reserve at least a month in advance or hope your concierge has a hookup. Once you're in, chef Damien Rinaldi Dovio's French cuisines—inflected with Asian and tropical flavors—doesn't disappoint. He likes to change the menu frequently (don't count on what the website says), but typical dishes include mahimahi with curried bananas, mashed potatoes with coconut cream, and roasted beef tenderloin in red wine–vanilla sauce. This is likely to be your most memorable meal in French Polynesia—especially once you get the bill. A meal for two with wine here can easily set you back $400.
Les Relais de Joséphine
Tel: 689 960 200
This Mediterranean villa set among the bungalows of Les Relais de Joséphine becomes an intimate restaurant at night. It has been called pretentiousand some meals are a bit fussybut Rangiroa's expat French community likes choices such as green-papaya gratin, curry of pearl oysters (locally called korori), and Parmentier of fish with sweet potatoes. If you're not a guest at the hotel, you'll need to make your dinner reservation before noon.
Boulevard Pomare at Vaiate Square
Papeete , Tahiti
More than 30 food vans (or roulottes) selling fresh crepes, Chinese stir-fry, and all-American burgers and pizza draw the crowds to Vaiete Square, a spot along the waterfront esplanade. The throngs and neon signs might make you feel you've been beamed to the streets of Bangkok, but worry not—the food is fresh and hygienically prepared. Live music, both Western and Tahitian, is played in the bandstand area on evenings and weekends. As you sit at picnic tables nibbling on your budget savories, you can listen in and watch the real show: Papeete's population at play.
Motu Moea , Moorea
Tel: 689 565 537
A modest, open-sided motu beach kiosk, La Plage is famous for its poisson cru —raw tuna marinated in coconut and lime juice. Open for lunch only, it's a lovely place to linger and enjoy the views across the lagoon to Moorea. Though packed on weekends with locals in swim trunks, the place is off the radar for most tourists—possibly because it's only reachable by boat. Unless you're game to paddle over yourself, hop on one of the launches that leave regularly from the dock at the InterContinental Resort on the northwestern coast.
Rue des Ecoles
Papeete , Tahiti
Tel: 689 820 808
Young fashion-forward Tahitians flock to this trendy Pan-Asian spot to perch in the saffron silk booths and spend their hard-earned francs on cuisine de Chinoise raffinée. (There are also some more local-type specialties, like "Tahitian-style" fish, prepared raw with onions in coconut milk.) There are a number of noodle soups, and a standout dish known as Chinese Fondue: assorted meats cooked on hot stones and served with 20 dipping sauces, from sesame to prune to ginger.
Matira Beach , Bora Bora
French Polynesia is littered with little huts serving fast food—all with names beginning with "Snack"—that offer hearty open-air meals on the go. Snack Matira, little more than a set of whitewashed gates with a roof (you'll spot it right away with its border of red Coca-Cola flags), is conveniently located on the beach between the Hotel Bora Bora and Matira Point, and serves up especially fresh and tasty regional staples, including chop suey, rare steak, grilled fish with vanilla sauce, and ice cream.
Hauru Point , Moorea
Tel: 689 561 220
The family-owned Hotel Hibiscus is a bit worn around the edges, but its café is well worth a visit. At lunchtime, you can grab a seat at a rubber treeshaded picnic table overlooking the lagoon and dig into simple salads and entrées inspired by the cuisines of Tahiti, France, and Italy. The standout choice is the pizza, served fresh out of a wood-fired oven.
Fare , Huahine
Known locally as Edna'seven though former owner Mme. Edna Flohr sold the property in 2004this unassuming, ramshackle building at the end of a wharf serves up some of the best gourmet treats in South Polynesia. The house specialties include a tangy and rich poisson cru and small island lobsters (langoustines) in a chili-coconut curry.