Anthony Bourdain in French Polynesia: 5 Spots Where Tony Ate
As its name suggests, it is virtually impossible to separate the influence of France from the experience of French Polynesia. While most people imagine a tropical paradise of palms, coconuts, and crystal-clear water, they’re surprised to learn you can also find incredible baguettes integrated harmoniously into centuries-old Pacific Island culture.
Anthony Bourdain visited French Polynesia once, to film season 3 (episode 10) of No Reservations. His escape from a harsh New York winter to tropical paradise was the only time he explored this part of the world, but it left a mark on him… literally! (Spoilers: Tony got a tattoo here.)
While his visit to this far-flung island nation doesn’t include as many restaurants as other destinations he visited, there is still a good list of places visited by Anthony Bourdain in French Polynesia. If you’re planning a trip and want to follow his lead to explore Tahitian and Marquesan culture through food, use this guide to arrange a few meals – or at least to seek out poisson cru during your visit.
Want to watch the episode where Anthony Bourdain visits French Polynesia?
The No Reservations episode is available on Amazon, Hulu, and Apple TV.
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Polynesian Māʼohi (Tahitian) people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Anthony Bourdain starts his on-screen journey through French Polynesia in the capital city of Papeete, which – as he describes it – is almost indistinguishable from other French tropical colonies and lands. While he isn’t necessarily impressed by the city, he does have a few good meals – including one at Patachoux, a French cafe and bakery, with chef Patrick Brunel who runs the establishment.
There, the pair enjoy cafe cremes, pain raisins, and fresh baguette while discussing the legacy of French colonization and culture on these far-flung islands on the other side of the world.
Marche du Papeete
Next, the two chefs head to the Marche du Papeete, the main market in the French Polynesian capital. There, they are ingredient shopping for a meal at Brunel’s new (at the time) restaurant. The browse the stalls for fresh produce and seafood, which are decidedly less French than Polynesian.
MANGO Cafe Tahiti (Papeete)
With ingredients in hand, Bourdain and Brunel visit the latter’s newest restaurant venture: Mango Cafe. At the time, the restaurant hadn’t even finished construction yet, but it is still open today if you find yourself in Papeete and want a fusion dining experience.
Sitting in the work zone, the two chefs enjoy a small meal of dishes that combine the French and tropical influences in this nation: they have tartar of courere (spelling?), which is the abductor muscle of the oyster, along with a fusion interpretation of the French classic Tournedos Rossini; instead of traditional filet mignon and foie gras, Brunel’s version is made with breadfruit, foie gras, port wine sauce, fried taro chips, and long beans.
La Roulotte (Papeete)
Tony then seeks out another aspect of life in French Polynesia, discovering the traditional Rae-Rae culture of French Polynesian trans women, which dates back to the indigenous culture and the concept of a third gender – the Māhū – that was almost wiped out by the French colonizers in the 16th and 17th centuries. He visits a club to meet some of these ladies, then heads out for late-night bites with them.
They dine at La Roulotte, a series of food trucks with different local dishes. They sample Tahitian poisson cru, a dish of raw fish with fresh vegetables that is supposed to be the best hangover cure on the islands.
Kia Ora Sauvage (Rangiroa)
After exploring the capital sufficiently, Bourdain and crew then catch a plane to another island – Rangiroa. There, they stay at the Kia Ora Sauvage, a private island resort. (Actually, I think this is where filming started for the episode, based on some dialogue in the episode, but it doesn’t really matter what order you visit them in!)
While there, Tony has a number of interesting dining experiences, including spear-fishing followed by a beach barbecue of grilled fish, poisson cru, and fresh coconut; trying farafu – a largely unpopular dish with foreigners made of fermented Hermit Crab tails with coconut yogurt; and urchin and snail hunting on the reef followed by a feast of boiled coconut crab, fresh sea snails in garlic butter, boiled taro root, fried fish fritters, coconut bread, and pumpkin tapioca poi.
Anthony Bourdain’s last stop in French Polynesia is the Marquesas Islands; he doesn’t eat at any restaurants here, so I didn’t include it in the “count” of places you can eat where he did – but it’s certainly worth visiting if you have the time in your itinerary.
Here, Tony learns about Marquesan culture through a visit to the I’ipona site – where the origins of the term “taboo” originated. He also receives a traditional Marquesan tattoo, and enjoys a locally hosted meal of coconut goat curry, wild boar with vegetables, fried breadfruit, stewed banana, tapioca, and coconut milk, – and poisson cru, of course.
Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in French Polynesia? Let me know in the comments!