By Jenny Starr Perez. Photos by Jason Nuttle.
“The first thing you notice is the view, then the extraordinary flavors, which linger for ages,” says a well-known local food expert when I ask them about their experience at DUNE by Laurent Tourondel, the celebrated oceanfront restaurant located inside Fort Lauderdale’s tony Auberge Beach Residences. For the past four decades, Tourondel, the award-winning, Michelin-starred chef and founder of BLT and LT restaurants including DUNE, has made a stellar career out of experimenting with the freshest ingredients that bring out the essence of his dishes in superbly delicious ways. Simple? Yes. Basic? Never. On the contrary, Tourondel has long been a well-respected visionary in the restaurant industry. Prior to opening the wildly successful BLT Steak, a Michelin-recognized steakhouse concept with locations in New York City, Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, Scottsdale, Los Angeles, Dallas, White Plains and Washington, D.C., the French chef began his career working under several notable chefs before taking on Executive Chef roles at such renowned establishments as the Palace Court Restaurant at the world-famous Caesar’s Palace Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas and Cello in New York City, which boasted an impressive three Michelin stars before it eventually closed its doors in 2002.
Tourondel’s latest South Florida concept, which he acquired from former management in 2021, reflects his idea of a perfect restaurant—a definition that is remarkably uncomplicated especially when one considers his dazzling trajectory. “It’s on the water, with a beautiful interior design,” says Tourondel. “It’s not a casual restaurant. It’s an ‘elegantly casual’ restaurant.” Desiring a more modern take on an oceanside restaurant, Tourondel tapped Alfredo Paredes, the designer who worked with Ralph Lauren for 33 years, to design the new 16,000-square-foot space (with an additional 5,000-square-foot outside terrace).
As guests walk through DUNE, the clear blue line of the ocean on the horizon cannot be ignored. Stepping inside the restaurant means being transported to a world of coastal elegance, where clear tones, natural textures and contemporary design create an inviting and stylish atmosphere. The aforementioned panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean serve as the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable meal that showcases the culinary artistry of Chef Tourondel, a masterful skill that native is on full display in the menus of the 12 renowned restaurants Tourondel currently operates under the Laurent Tourondel Hospitality (LTH) portfolio in New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Florida, including DUNE and LT Steak and Seafood at The Betsy Hotel on South Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive strip.
The secret to his well-received dishes, says Tourondel, lies in his insistence on using ingredients that have almost entirely been sourced locally and represent the flair of the region.
“It’s all about the vibes,” says Tourondel. “I’m not cooking the same thing in Fort Lauderdale that I cook in my restaurants in New York. For me, It’s important to be aware of the surroundings of the places where I open: the vibes, local ingredients and the preferences of the clientele. It all comes together to create an experience that is distinct to the region. That’s what I aim to create in all my restaurants and certainly at DUNE.”
Drawing inspiration from South Florida’s diverse coastal region, DUNE’s menus are a true testament to Chef Laurent’s mastery and his unwavering commitment to using the freshest produce available. The restaurant takes pride in its sustainable sourcing practices, ensuring that each dish not only tantalizes the taste buds but also respects the delicate balance of the local ecosystems. Diners can indulge in a symphony of flavors as they explore the menu, which features an exquisite selection of seafood, expertly prepared and presented with artistic flair.
Guests can choose from sushi options, as well as lunch and dinner menus highlighting South Florida’s succulent fare. “I like to use citrus in many of my dishes. Stone crab is another favorite when it’s in season. Diners may notice a lot of snapper on the menu in our ceviche and crudos selections.” Among other highlights are Tourondel’s Mediterranean-style flatbreads, lobster spaghettini and tender grilled Spanish octopus; each dish at Dune is a harmonious blend of textures and tastes, designed to delight and surprise.
As one can expect, Tourondel’s culinary prowess extends beyond the sea, as DUNE also offers a selection of thoughtfully crafted meat options. Savor a perfectly cooked Filet Mignon, indulge in the Organic Chicken Diablo, served with pickled cherry peppers and tarragon, or opt for Chef Tourondel’s take on a classic burger with added truffled cheese, caramelized onions and sauteed spinach topped with truffle aioli—a feast for the senses.
“There is always something interesting about food. You find its soul in different spices and flavors. Experimenting with it is part of my process. My team and I think about local products, seasonal items, and what the clientele wants. We put a long list together and make it happen. Art on a plate, in a way.” dunebylt.com