Featured Restaurant: Dune
by Suzanne Daub
There’s a fine dining spot in downtown Nantucket that we look forward to with great anticipation every year. A restaurant where the chef-owner has mastered the magic of serving food that is dazzlingly good in an ambiance that is chic yet unpretentious, where guests always feel welcome.
Chef Michael Getter opened Dune 14 years ago after decades of experience in the island’s culinary scene, and it has been an island favorite ever since. Whether you are seeking a spot for a romantic evening, a gathering of friends or family, or you just want a well-made cocktail and a bite at the bar, Dune is where you want to be. With his Chef de Cuisine Joseph Ranstatler, Chef Getter creates culinary magic: transforming fresh local ingredients into lavish dishes that will draw you back again and again.
Getter’s wine list is perfectly matched to his menu offerings, including some bottles with special appeal. Dune’s libations expert for the past two seasons is Leigh, who has brought her years of experience in various Nantucket fine establishments to the bar at 20 Broad Street. She’s happy to offer suggestions on which cocktails and mocktails are sure to please. Of Leigh’s half-dozen specialty cocktails, our favorite is the intriguing Rhubarbarella, the essence of summer made with the blend of brandy, citrus, vanilla, and spices known as Tuaca, spiked with rum and flavored with strawberry, rhubarb, cardamon, and lemon. We also like her zero proof summer sip called Mocking Bird, a fun and fruity mix of pineapple, almond orgeat, lime, and grenadine served in a blue tiki mug.
It’s often in their nightly specials that Chef Getter and his kitchen staff reveal their wizardry, and the night we dined here was no exception. We’re hoping that the Beet Cured Salmon Gravlax becomes a regular offering. This appetizer arrived in a dramatic presentation reminiscent of conch shells, with delicate salmon draped over shatteringly crisp large sesame crackers. Dots of creamy green avocado, sweet yellow mango puree, orange carrot miso, tiny cubes of earthy red beet, cilantro leaves, and white and black sesame seeds impart color and an ocean of flavor. Chilled, chopped sugar snap peas give a tasty crunch. This appetizer portion is so generous it could have easily been a starter for two; but it’s so good that you probably won’t want to share it.
Beets are the star of another cold appetizer: Dune’s Roasted Red and Gold Beets. For this patron favorite, large chunks of beets are arranged geometrically on a generous smear of mildly tangy whipped goat cheese. Piles of chopped pistachios add a tasty crunch to the tender, mellow, sweet beets, drizzled with balsamic reduction and red sorrel beet vinaigrette.
A dish of bright spring green and garden fresh flavor, Spring Asparagus Risotto is prepared with a mushroom-parmesan broth made even richer with mascarpone. It’s toothsome and creamy, just as risotto is meant to be—fresh asparagus adds a tender-crisp bite. Preserved lemon elevates with a hint of bright spring flavor, and maitake mushrooms and shavings of parmesan bring this appetizer down to earth.
The next starter we enjoyed was so fresh, we’re sure the chefs must have picked the asparagus from a kitchen garden moments before serving it. Simple and simply delicious, the spears in the Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus are lightly cooked to tender crisp. It’s presented over a mellow parsnip puree, and topped with fresh basil, red onion, a dusting of Aleppo chile, and a drizzles of lemon evoo.
More culinary magic was revealed in the special entree of the evening: Line Caught Nantucket Fluke. An indescribably good dish of land and sea, the fresh fluke was served over a mix of chopped chard, pickled golden raisins, strips of roasted red peppers, chorizo, cauliflower seasoned with saffron, and pearl couscous. It was surrounded by a broth of deep Mediterranean flavors that tied the different elements together to make a dish of bold and complex tastes without overpowering the mild fish. Count yourself lucky if this is offered the night you dine at Dune.
Scallops are one of our favorite morsels from the sea. When cooked correctly, they are tender, sweet, and moist—one of life’s finer pleasures—and Chef Getter’s Pan-Roasted Sea Scallops are perfect! Each one has a tasty golden brown caramelized crust over a middle that is just warm. The scallops are nestled into a bed of Dune’s spring asparagus risotto, with a brown butter sherry vinaigrette that adds bright flavor and cuts the richness of the dish. Tiny trumpet mushrooms and pea tendrils are the tasty garnishes.
Flaky and flavorful, sweet and savory, the Miso Glazed Scottish Salmon is the best of a salmon roll as an entrée. With a crunchy mix of nori and sesame seeds sprinkled over a caramelized miso glaze, the moist, rare salmon is served on a bed of crisped bamboo rice next to locally-grown carrots and golden beets with tasty dabs of creamy avocado and carrot-miso puree.
We rarely order chicken at a restaurant: we’re fully capable of cooking a hen. But we’ve never come close to preparing chicken that tastes as seductively good as Dune’s Half Chicken under a Brick. Crisp, perfectly seasoned skin (and plenty of it) over moist and succulent meat, this dish is superb. It’s served with a deeply flavorful roasted onion jus and with a vivid lemon-pepper aioli: try a bite of chicken with one, then with the other, and it’s like having two different entrees on the same plate. Tucked underneath the halfchicken are roasted sunchokes. It speaks volumes to the talent of the chefs at Dune that they can elevate a homespun ingredient to a fine dining favorite.
Meat lovers adore Dune’s Grilled Heritage Pork Chop: when you’re served pork this high-quality, it doesn’t need much embellishment. Impressively thick, intensely flavored, juicy, and with a delicious char, this chop is sensational. We swiped a few forkfuls through the parsnip tahini served alongside, but ultimately liked it best on its own. We ate the rest of the tasty tahini with the delicious Greek-style salad of beans, feta, cucumbers, olives, and cherry tomatoes that accompanies the pork.
Our final indulgences of the evening are edible works of art. We sampled two of Dune’s five desserts. We were sorely tempted by their Chocolate Pot de Creme, their Lemon Olive Oil Cake, and their Gelatos, but we know our limits.
The Strawberry Pavlova is an ideal finish to a richly delicious meal. Light and fruity and not overly sweet, this dessert is a showcase for perfectly ripe strawberries. The strawberry is laid on a bed of the mousse-like yogurt ganache montée that fills a mini nest of swirled meringue. A refreshing strawberry sorbet is served alongside on top of coconut crumbles.
This was the first time we’d tasted ube as a dessert ingredient, and we hope it’s not the last. Dune’s Ube Tres Leches is rich, beautifully lavender sponge cake with a moist, custardy crumb topped with decorative piping of lush pandan. This deliciously elaborate dessert plate is served with a side of flan and scoops of subtly sweet, slightly earthy, and somewhat floral ube ice cream.
Make your dinner reservations at Dun e for a magical evening on Nantucket.