by Dominic Peralta
The unassuming sign out front says "Snack Bar,"
photos by John De Mello
but don’t be fooled: Te Marara, on the out-of-the-way Society Isle of Huahine, offers tropical fine dining at its beachcomber best. With a five-star open-air view across the sparkling lagoon to Huahine’s spired peaks, Te Marara combines elegant flavors with a laid-back, coconut-thatched decor. VIP
visitors like Jimmy Buffet, Quincy Jones and Dustin Hoffman have been known to rub elbows with the low-key locals who are fixtures at the restaurant’s barabout as close to a social hub as you’ll find in Huahine’s tiny main town of Fare.
With the lagoon’s abundance literally at Te Marara’s doorstep, it’s no surprise that the specialite de la maison is melt-in-your-mouth uncooked fish in any number of French-influenced gustatory guises, including tartare, carpaccio and Tahiti’s national dish, poisson cru, a piquant concoction of coconut milk, onions and lime juice whose acidity "cooks" the raw fish to silky perfection.
"Tahitians have a way with fish," explains one Te Marara regular, pausing reluctantly between mouthfuls. "And, we love to eat."
The fish served at
Te Marara (above)
comes straight from
Thirty years ago, when Edna and Guy Flohr first opened the restaurant, Huahine had no paved roads, telephones or TV, and Te Marara really did fit the snack bar bill, serving fish sandwiches and the island’s only hamburgersbut always with a gourmet flair. Over the years, as upscale South Sea adventure seekers began to discover the island, Te Marara’s menu evolved accordingly. Among the restaurant’s showcases now are langouste (small island lobsters) simmered in a Javanese curry of fresh-grated coconut milk and chile, Te Marara shrimp flamed in a whisky-and-tomato sauce and, to cap it all off, espresso spiked with vanilla-infused rum. With "snacks" like those, who needs haute cuisine?