The roulottes of French Polynesia, June 2006

A roulotte is a mobile restaurant. They typically serve dinner only. Most only have a handful of folding tables, but table service is always available. And they always use real plates and flatware, no disposables.


In Papeete, the whole plaza by the docks starts filling up around dusk.

By nightfall the place is in full swing.


Many of the roulottes seem to be family-run businesses.

Over there is Chez Mamy. And here is Chez Papy.

But we all know who are really minding the shop. :-)

A significant number of roulottes are run by ethnic Chinese.

The wok set up is always outdoors, and usually staffed by men.

There are also Polynesian and French operators.

The menu is typically not this ambitious.

Chinese dishes, pizzas, crpes and other simple French fare are more common offerings.

Roulottes operate rain or dry, even though in the 15 minutes of this downpour, we saw mostly take-away orders.


But when the weather cooperates, dining al fresco under the Southern Cross is an unique experience.

In Papeete, the clientele is an even mix between locals and tourists.


However, on the other side of Tahiti, away from the concentrated tourism, it is mostly locals.

This is Roulotte Haunani in Taravao -- they have the best poisson cru la Chinoise. Not to mention Michael Jackson videos on the telly. And if you cluelessly park yourself in somebody's line of sight while Freddy Mercury and Queen are belting out "Fat Bottomed Girls," you'll get a determined jabbing and an earful from some toothless Polynesian grandma.

This is an unusual roulotte. It is permanently sited by the roadside in Hauru Point, on the island of Moorea. It is open for business during the day. And it most certainly does not have wheels.

  Home :  Travels :  Tahiti Updated: 10 Dec 2006  

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