Thursday, January 16, 2014

La Villa Mahana in Bora (French Polynesia)make take your breath away (1-1-14)


After heading south of the Equator and celebrating New Year's Eve aboard the ship, we arrived in Bora Bora in French Polynesia for an overnight stay. Overnight stay is the first key word meaning off ship dining opportunity. I had arranged in advance to dine at the famed LA VILLA MAHANA (www.lavillamahana) where Corsican chef Damien Rinaldi Dovio holds court over the just over half a dozen tables with his beautiful Tahitian wife managing the front of house elegantly.
It is in a beautiful courtyard of an unmarked house just minutes south of the town of Vaitape where the ship's tenders arrive. Crisp white linens, fine crystal and silver adorn the tables, although a bread plate would have been welcome for the superb warm breads that arrived. We had a large hot French boule and a banana leaf wrapped moist tasty coconut bread with a superb sea salted butter.
Mostly quiet French music or local tunes played with an occasional Edith Piaf song as well as we sipped a glass of Nicholas Feuillette champagne mixed with Peach liquor and perused the menu and chose on of the two tasting menus with accompanying wines from France.
From our table we were lucky enough to have a view into the tiny kitchen which barely held chef Damien and his assistant sweating away in the quite warm 80 degree evening. They nodded and smiled at us periodically as we gave them the thumbs up and eventually Chef Damien came out at the end to thank us; he didn't really seem to visit any other table than ours and one other.
Oddly, there was no amuse and we started with a Salade Royale de Crustaces et Caviar which was a superb top notch leaf lettuce salad (keep in mind these are rare and expensive on these islands where growing such vegetables is quite costly) with imported shrimp and caviar in a delicious vinaigrette which hinted of Tahitian vanilla.
another glass of the Nicholas Feuillette came but without the sweet peach liquor.
Foie Gras aux Epices was a gorgeous perfectly cooked piece of goose liver sitting on sauteed sweet onions and a slab of potato with divine local spices. It was made even better with the 2010 Chateau Grillon Sauternes that was drinking superbly.
Just when we though it could not get any better, an excellent Risotto de Langouste appeared cooked just right and slightly al dente with local lobster on top. A Chablis Grand Cru 2003/04 Preuses from William Fevre was a true treat, as were all the amazing wines.
We found it odd that the sparkling water of choice here was San Benedetto, and indeed throughout Tahiti and her islands we saw more Pellegrino than Perrier, and we avoided the extremely costly Badoit, no matter how much we loved it.
The main course was a Filet de Boeuf a la Vanille de Tahiti, Gnocchi a la Creme de Parmesan which was a large filet (these apparently come from New Zealand along with much of the meat and dairy products here) with a superb red wine/vanilla sauce and rich creamy gnocchi. The wine was also a revelation with the deuxieme du chateau (2nd label) 2007 Amiral Beycheville that was drinking just right after 6+ years.
Dessert was a Fondant Chocolat Noir Pur Caraibe avec Glace a la Vanille de Tahiti which would have been right up Samuel's alley, but he decided to stay on board and let us have an adult night out. It was a perfectly cooked molten middle cake and the ice cream is definitely on the world's best list. Only the Tawny Port was a bit too much with all the sweetness from the dish.
We did love our evening and were looking forward to several more lunches and another dinner while in the islands! What a great way to start the new year.