One does not necessarily travel to Tahiti for the food, which is admittedly under-finessed and overpriced. You'll find plenty of poisson cru and mahi mahi in Tahitian vanilla sauce on most resort menus-from Tahiti to Moorea to Bora Bora-but for a truly memorable meal, reserve a table at one of these five exceptional fine-dining restaurants. Yes, they are tres expensive, but if you are paying $700-$1,000 a night for an overwater bungalow, you can afford to splurge on a meal costing $300-$400-especially if you are in Tahiti for your wedding or honeymoon.
This tiny, five-table restaurant on Bora Bora, considered the island's most exclusive, is the work of Chef Damien Rinaldi Dovio, who trained in Europe and cooked in Paris and Los Angeles (at l'Orangerie) before opening La Villa Mahana in 2006. His cuisine features light Mediterranean influences emphasizing quality Polynesian ingredients, with a menu that changes every two months. Appetizers include royal seafood salad with lobster, tiger prawns and caviar, and seared ahi tuna with vanilla oil, potatoes and lemon juice, while entrees include mahi mahi in a banana curry crust with mashed sweet potatoes and mango sauce. Reserve three months in advance. Phone: 011-689-67-50-63
Opened on the north coast of Moorea in early 2009 as part of the Legends Resort Moorea, this innovative restaurant serves Chef Tarek Chaker's gourmet French-Asian fusion cuisine-grilled sea scallops with baby asparagus and warm saffron vinaigrette and monkfish with wok-fried noodles and sautéed shitake mushrooms-in a sophisticated setting. At one end of the sleek, wood-floored, glass-walled dining room is a glass wine cellar holding more than 120 labels. There's also a VIP chef's table with a view of the kitchen. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5:00pm-10:00pm and for lunch (12:00pm-2:00pm) on Saturday and Sunday. Phone: 011-689- 55-15-15
Located in The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort and offering dreamy views of Mt. Otemanu (arrive before sunset to enjoy a cocktail on the outdoor terrace overlooking the lagoon), this Bora Bora outpost of star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's globe-spanning empire offers a diverse menu that's as unique and fabulous as the setting. Start with the signature appetizer of rice-cracker-crusted tuna and segue to the roasted breast of duck with parsnip, passion fruit and black olive. But save room for dessert-caramelized banana cake or coconut panna cotta-and an after-dinner cocktail as the moon illuminates the shimmering lagoon. Phone: 011-689-60-78-88
If you happen to be staying at Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa, set on its own private motu off of Taha'a, from June to December, be sure to reserve a table at this intimate fine-dining restaurant (closed Mondays and Tuesdays even in high season). With just 18 seats, Ohiri features the culinary creativity of Chef Franck Bezy, who interprets French haute cuisine using local Polynesian ingredients. One of his most popular dishes features royal Bering crab and red tuna filet with basil jelly, candied lime, Taha'a vanilla, local avocado mousse and roquette salad. Le Taha'a Island Resort & Spa is a member of Relais & Chateaux. Phone: 011-689-60-84-00
5. Le Coco's
Offering both a romantic setting-a cottage in Punaauia on Tahiti's west coast with views of Moorea, which feels far from the bustle of Papeete-and excellent and adventurous nouvelle French cuisine, this lagoon-side restaurant is open daily for both lunch and dinner. Arrive early and watch the sunset over cocktails before heading inside. You can order a la carte or choose the five-course chef's menu, which changes often and is a surprise. Reservations recommended. Phone: 011-689-58-21-08