There’s only one answer when someone asks me, where to eat in Bora Bora, La Villa Mahana remains the crowned champion of dining experiences.
Chef Damien Rinaldi Dovic is a master of his craft and the intimate setting he’s created is pure romance. There are only seven tables here and reservations are understandably booked up for months in advance. Unfortunately, Mimi had only heard about La Villa Mahana a month before we were supposed to arrive in Bora Bora.
She had read the warnings in online forums about how hard it was to get a table, but she called regardless, knowing that she had nothing to lose. She was rewarded for her tenacity because a reservation had canceled, so there was one table available. As fortune would have it, it was for the night of my 40th birthday. She booked it immediately.
We had spent an active day snorkeling with manta rays and swimming with a humpback whale and her calf, so we were ready for dinner.
We took the hotel boat to Viatape and caught a taxi to the restaurant. It had been arranged for them to park and wait for us to finish dinner so that we would have a ride back to the boat. La Villa Mahana is isolated in a quiet area of the island and without them waiting, I’m fairly sure we wouldn’t have found another one on our own.
We were shown to our table; a romantic little spot, slightly elevated on a small patio over a quiet courtyard.
Mimi could see past me through a window where Chef Damien prepared the food on a tiny little stove that looked like it came from the 1950’s. I faced Mimi, so I had the best view in the restaurant. Around us was a lush garden setting, wax candles, and a tree with a wooden swing in the middle of the courtyard. We saw no other guest beyond one couple who arrived late, then disappeared somewhere behind us to what I’m sure was also a lovely romantic spot.
When I say that La Villa Mahana is the crowned champion of dining experiences, I mean just that.
The whole experience was perfect from start to finish. First and foremost, it all starts with the food and it was beyond incredible. The wines that were paired, complimented the meal perfectly. The music was songs from artists like Edith Piaf, Ray Charles, and Andrea Bocelli. The private garden courtyard and the romantic candles created the perfect atmosphere. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting and no detail was left ignored.
The menu is different every day depending on what ingredients the chef finds. He shops from the local markets and chooses only the ingredients that are the freshest.
In a place like Bora Bora, seafood is always an option, but it’s far from the only option. I had the most tender and flavorful cut of prime beef you could imagine with gnocchi in a cream sauce that was pure food porn. From what we tasted that night, it wouldn’t matter what Chef Damien found at the market. We felt like anything he cooked was guaranteed to taste great.
Because it was my birthday, I got a special dessert, complete with a sparkler on top.
Dessert is my favorite food group and the pastry/ice cream combination I was given was everything that I love about sweets. Ice cream, chocolate, and caramel were all represented, which to me, are the three ingredients necessary for perfection. We also had some macarons, which is Mimi’s idea of the perfect food. We drank champagne along with our dessert (because, of course, we did. What else would you drink?) It was literally the perfect ending to an incredible meal.
Chef Damien came out afterward to introduce himself and ask about our meal and it perfectly summed up the whole experience.
He truly loves creating great dishes and he cares about the happiness of the people eating his food. It’s very personal for him and his passion comes through in every bite. Years later, I still remember that night and hope to go back to French Polynesia again. Both for the incomparable beauty of the islands and to visit La Villa Mahana again.