Eating in Tahiti: When Food trucks take over Papeete

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Sunset in Tahiti
View from Place Vaiete

When we arrived for a night’s stopover in Papeete, Tahiti before taking the ferry next morning to Moorea, I clearly didn’t want to spend one single moment in a noisy city. Instead of concrete buildings and traffic jams, I’d rather have a relaxing cocktail on one of Moorea’s breathtakingly gorgeous beaches, as I’d seen in so many pictures. Unfortunately, our plane had arrived late that day, a bit after the last ferry, and we were doomed to stay in Papeete overnight.
So, upon arrival, we actually just wanted to indulge ourselves in a nice, cozy restaurant and have a good night’s sleep. But little did I know that I was about to discover the most delectable food truck festival whatsoever!

The Roulottes in Papeete, Tahiti

I have to admit; I’m a little ashamed that we didn’t even open the travel guide for my night’s stay in Papeete. Because honestly, after a 2-week adventure that implied driving frantically around Zealand’s North Island and was marked by very little sleep and some demanding treks, we were both pretty knackered.

After sluggishly trudging up to the reception desk of our hotel to find out where we could have a nice dinner, we were redirected – without any hesitation – to the “roulottes” at Place Vaiete, next to the port of Papeete.
The French word “roulottes” means caravans… just like those camper vans, or as the modern foodie in us would call them: food trucks.
At first, I was a bit hesitant. I mean, why would a hotel, which is hosting its very own restaurant, recommend us to eat dubious street food in a park? Or was I just overly cautious?

Place Vaiete (on the map)

There was just one way to find out all the hype of those food serving camper vans: off we went to the beautiful Place Vaiete at 6 pm sharp. And sure enough, before our eyes, the place transformed in no time into an open air dining area. Colourful food trucks were parked here and there onto the place. Plastic tables were set up and donned with Vichy patterned plastic cloths. Small crowds of tourists, onlookers and locals started to stroll along the alleys and formed hungry mobs in front of the roulottes. Quickly our nostrils picked up as well the first appetizing scents, each fragrance more delectable than the other. Our taste buds were inevitably summoned to one of the most surprising food fests!

Place Vaiete with its famous “roulottes” and hungry crowds. This photo was taken by A la tΓͺte du client – a Food Truck company in Paris. Check out their Facebook page facebook.com/ALaTeteDuClientFoodTruck

The biggest dilemma was to choose the type of food and at what roulotte we would eat. In fact, after a two-week expedition in New Zealand and meanwhile experiencing the county’s cookery, that was unfortunately living up to the grim standards of Anglo-Saxon cuisine, it came to us as a shock to be confronted with such a vast choice of gastronomic greatness! (Sorry guys, for this low blow).

 At Place Vaiete, foodies and hungry visitors are simply spoiled for choice. From French salted galettes and sweet crepes, thin-crust Italien pizzas, particularly appetizing burgers and barbecued meat to traditional Asian cuisine and exotic Polynesian specialties… what more can you ask for? … No, really, what?

Polynesian specialties

For my part, after a shy attempt at the ‘Ota ‘ika (which is a Polynesian dish made of raw fish, for example Mahi Mahi, served in citrus sauce and coconut milk), I became severely obsessed with raw fish throughout my entire stay in French Polynesia.

Polynesian specialties: ‘Ota’Ika (raw fish in citrus and coconut sauce) and fresh red tuna

The red tuna was another gastronomic infatuation of mine. Oh dear, that tuna was a true delicacy and I’m not exagerating! It comes in raw pieces with cabbage salad and some sort of soy sauce. That tuna, has nothing – nothing! – in common with the one that is industrially fished by those massive ocean-killing tankers, frozen for good measure and then served as “fresh” in the expensive restaurants throughout the world. No no no, this tuna is caught by local fishermen, on a human scale, that very same day and is so incredibly tender that the pieces literally melt on your tongue A gourmet bliss in Tahiti, me says! Click To Tweet

When to eat at the roulottes?

Everyday, from 6 pm onwards.

In the end, eating at Place Vaiete is a true multicultural and a gastronomical event; a wonderfully surprising festival of flavours and tastes for fairly good value, since the prices are more than acceptable for the servings, the quality and freshness of the products!

So, if you are travelling to French Polynesia sometime soon and you are staying in Tahiti, even if it’s only for a single night, treat yourself to some delectable, but simple dinner in Papeete and have a go at the roulottes at Place Vaiete! Sit down at one of the plastic tables and enjoy a fantastic meal in a laid back atmosphere made of the cheerful buzz of visitors and locals, while watching the soothing colours of the setting sun… Truly an experience not to miss out on!

Sunset at Place Vaiete

Cheers πŸ˜‰

34 COMMENTS

  1. Nothing makes every travel complete than enjoying good food from a reputable restaurant. Ah its a fantastic feeling especially this kind of foods πŸ™‚

  2. That raw fish looks intriguing, Something unique and different – local delicacy. I know what you mean by the Anglo-Saxon cuisine… I’d love to try that fish! Tahiti is a tempting place, so far from anywhere else in the world. I’d love to visit some day πŸ™‚

    • Yep, if it wasn’t that far away from everywhere, I think I’d be gone back a long time ago. Beautiful sceneries, nice people and gorgeous food! πŸ™‚

  3. I believe that food trucks are either fantastic or horrible. I have never tried the mediocre food from them. If you say the food trucks are worth going for food in Taiti, I surely will!

    • Absolutely! Those meals are delicious… so yeah these “roulottes” belong to the group of fantastic food trucks πŸ™‚

  4. That’s lucky! Nature has its own ways to surprise us I guess! Having amazing local food that too without actually planning for it, is awesome! Otaika looks sumptuous! By any chance, was it good for veggies too?!

  5. I feel like Food Trucks are getting even more popular here in the United States but didn’t know they made their way over to Tahiti! I think the mobility and fast food is what people love about them! I also love how in such a luxurious place like the French Polynesian, you can still have an amazing low cost meal at some plastic tables!

  6. That’s so cool! I wish something like Place Vaiete would pick up here in Ireland. The food truck industry seems to be growing and growing. That food looks incredibly delicious, it’s no wonder that people flock to the place.

  7. I was always wondering what do they eat in Tahiti to be honest. The Mahi Mahi, served in citrus sauce and coconut milk sounds amazing, but I am not so sure about eating fish raw. Thats probably the popular dish over there right? Dont get me wrong, I can eat small raw piece of salmon on my sushi but the whole fish would be weird πŸ˜€

  8. Good place and great food are the perfect combination. The food looks delicious and as I read your post, I just wanted to dig into the gastronomic pleasure.
    Great post.

  9. Now this sounds like a lot of fun. I totally understand the pain of touching down in a city that is only really a stopover spot and being forced to stay there but you got very lucky by stumbling across this. Certainly, there are few better ways to experience a place than through its street food and even better if all the trucks stop by one place! As a bit of a raw fish connoisseur β€˜Ota β€˜ika is now definitely on my radar.

  10. Food. Travelling is one piece of cake, and the food is the topping on that. The native food of anywhere you visit is either a total delight or disaster. Good to see that you had an experience. Though we are vegetarians but the pictures spoke how a heart of meat lover would feel.

    • Quite honestly, I guess there where also vegetarian dishes… at the roulottes you are simply spoiled for very delectable choices! πŸ™‚

  11. The tuna looks and sounds amazing! And with a sunset like that as a backdrop? What an awesome outdoor dining experience!

  12. I never would have expected to find food trucks with that much to offer in Tahiti of all places. That is truly a great find and fortunate flight delay for you. I will need to add that to our french polynesia list. Thank you for sharing this!

  13. Sounds like a foodie’s paradise. Though I see a lot of meat. Are there any options for vegetarians? I sure would want a taste of Polynesian food!

    • Hi, Ami. To be honest I didn’t look for vegetarian dishes but I guess, with all the choice they have, that vegestarians will also find something yummy to eat πŸ™‚

  14. The food looks great, I’m always interested in the food culture of the place that I visit so thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

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