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!
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?
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.
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!