8.14.2005

Restaurant Review: Villa Mahana (Bora Bora)


Name: Villa Mahana
Chef: Damien Reinaldi
Location: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Cuisine: French Influenced Italian-Polynesian Fusion
Stars: 4/5
Review: June 2005

Villa Mahana is a small restaurant (converted from a small home) just outside the city of Vaitape on the main island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. It is run by a friendly Italian immigrant chef, Damien Reinaldi and the menu reflects his French and Italian training, tradition and also the local polynesian produce and spices. Chef Reinaldi is extremely friendly and cooks alone and you can see him work on each dish through what once was probably a hallway to the kitchen from the living room (now our dining room). Villa Mahana is relatively new and is one of only two fine dining restaurants available for patrons in all of Bora Bora Top Dive).

D├ęcor: The restaurant is small and romantic, containing only 5-6 tables in the main dining room with a 2 very private tables, 1 outside just up a patio and another on the second floor of the home, near the restroom. The converted home is a mansion in Bora Bora housing standards and it reflects French Polynesian flaire, such as flower print linens and sand filled floors.

Menu: The menu was a la carte and a pre-fix. Not wanting to initially pigeon hole myself into a set menu, I looked over the a la carte. After realizing that I was going to definetly order at least 4 things off the a la carte, I figured I might as well save a buck or two and just take the price fix menu, which contained 3 of my 4 selections. We asked the chef for advice and he agreeded and was willing to switch a side on my main course, so I didn't miss out on a side I wanted to try. Additions or subsitutions are hard to get on pre-fix menus - which many of you know I am sure-unless of course you know the chef.

First Course: Seafood Salad & Caviar
Second Course: Foie Gras in Sweet Spice Crust
Third Course: King Rock Lobster Exotical Flavor
Main Course: For me, Smoked Mahi Mahi with Spiced Banana Crust (a top my subsituted truffled gnocchi) and my husband had Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Red Wine Vanila Sauce & the Truffled Gnocchi as well. Both Dishes Pictured Here.
Dessert: Warm and Creamy Chocolate Cake with Tiare Flower Ice Cream

The food was fabulous, perfectly seasoned, happy portions and beautifully served. The real star of the meal was the second course, the Foie Gras in Sweet Spice Crust.

Highlight Experience: My husband and I had had our salad, and well, nothing to exciting, just fish, greens, etc., etc - then each of us received a plate with the lump, 3-4 oz (after cooking weight) spice crusted (which I think was a combination of cardamom, coriander, cumin, tumeric and cayenne - possibly paprika? in possibly a flour based crust?) foie gra was set before each us. The foie layed a top a dollop of buttery, rich, truffled risotto, oozing with truffle oil. This foie was amazing, the spice cutting into the rich flavor of the foie, the crust adding the perfect sear to combine the soft, pillow of inner medium to medium foie (the perfect temp to serve it!) This is possibly the best foie I have ever enjoyed, topping any foie at the Inn at Little Washington or Maestro. I cannot comment on this enough the originality and cooking demonstration that this dish exemplified by the chef. And writing this makes me want to head to Dean & Delucas right now, pick up some foie and try and make it today - just to satisfy the urge - even though I know it probably won't be as good.

We literally shouted out to the chef our bravos (we had the earliest dinner seating, so there was no one else in the restaurant yet, but us, the chef and the waitress) and the chef came out with excitment and said he would bring us another "taste" to enjoy. We were gleeful! What restaurant gives you a special taste - of foie no less - and you aren't a supermodel or famous food writer?!? And his "taste" arrived...two full servings of foie, piled on eachother, atop more truffled risotto on a plate for my husband and I to share (Pictured Here). That evening I figure we ate about $30 in foie gras (at cost iff foie was $30/1 lb: typical US-Mid Atlantic Wholesale Prices - but in Bora Bora everything is generally has a 40-50% mark-up - so probably it was more like $60/lb.).

The rest of our meal was fabulous, definetly comparable in food quality with other high star/ratings restaurants. My smoked mahi mahi was interesting, with a spiced (similar to the foie spices I think) banana puree crust. The chocolate cakes were predictable, but perfectly cooked so that the first 1/4 inch was only cooked, so that as you immediately broke into the crust, the flow of 'chocolate lava' came all over the plate.

Things to think about:

  • If you are a Michelin addict - Michelin would probably rate this a 1 star, because of the decor and area. But I would still highly reccomend Villa Mahana, because for many dinners, whole cubes or crushed ice-doesn't really make or break a restaurant for them.
  • You ought to email the chef about week or two before you head to Bora Bora to make reservations, as there are only a few tables.
  • If you visit the website, the english version isn't finished, so I would recommend going through the menu in the other languages provided, which are finished pages.
  • Pricing is comparable with what you would pay eating at the 'nice restaurant' in your Bora Bora resort. A la carte for 3 courses was around $70/person US Dollars (6k FPF); Our 5 course fix-price was $115/person US Dollars (10.5 K FPF).

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