Best crepes in French Polynesia are at this tiki hut

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By Sarah Sekula, Published on usatoday.com

By day, it’s an unassuming tiki hut surrounded by overwater bungalows. After sundown, though, it transforms into Toatea Creperie Bar, a wildly popular crepe joint at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, a 25-minute ferry ride from Tahiti.

Here, chef Claude Gerard pumps out more than 100 crepes a night. As for me, I’m more than ready to test out his handiwork. On a breezy night, I sip a dangerously tasty cocktail while glancing at the menu. There are traditional-style crepes (recipes from Brittany) plus a load of non-traditional ones filled with fresh catches like Mahi Mahi.

Chef Gerard, who hails from Brittany, the birthplace of the crepe, has been whipping up these pancake-like dishes for nearly a decade. So, I have a feeling this evening will be amazing. For starters, the location is magical to the nth degree.

The glowing lights underneath the restaurant attract a constant flow of blacktip reef sharks. As the sun goes down, the view of Moorea’s peaks is stunning, and it’s a pretty dreamy spot for stargazing. I could clearly see the Southern Cross and the Milky Way.

For my main course, I easily polish off the Papy Claude crepe, a heavenly mix of goat cheese, pear, honey, arugula and pine nuts.

“The food is the authentic recipe from Brittany,” Gerard says in his thick French accent.

The recipe dates back to the time when farmers in Brittany came from the fields and back to their homes; they could prepare and cook a whole meal in a short time with their own products, he says.

About half way through my meal, I snag a bite of my friend’s crepe stuffed with potato, onion, smoked bacon, gruyere and white wine. Equally amazing.

“I always try to make happy my guests,” Gerard says. “I love the crepes because it is easy and fast to prepare them and you fill them with what you love. Plus, being in the middle of the lagoon is a delight; it is like having dinner in paradise.”

After savoring every bite, I remember, there’s more on the way. Gerard comes over proudly carrying the star of the show: two crepe Suzettes my friends had ordered.

E voila!, someone says, just before he pours the Grand Marnier a flambé over the crepes. Meanwhile, smartphones snap to my left and right capturing the culinary moment.

My dessert order, on the other hand, is less showy but equally popular. It’s filled with lady finger bananas (a smaller and sweeter version of the bananas I’m used to at home) and my all-time favorite ingredient, Nutella. So simple, yet so indulgent.

As it arrives, so does the rain. I snatch up my plate and run to the bar. This puppy is not getting drenched and neither is my silk dress. At this point I am completely full, but I solider on testing out bites of other dessert crepes. After the sprinkles subside, I saunter back to my bungalow, promptly open the windows and fall asleep listening to the waves.

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