Rob Klink: Grille master

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Entertainment,Food and Drink,Alexandra Greeley

It's possible that some D.C. foodies remember Rob Klink as the culinary face of the Oceanaire Seafood Room. While there, Klink became something of a spokesperson for the sustainable seafood movement. As an activist, he worked to teach the staff and patrons about the need to protect our deep-sea environs.

But after a short hiatus from a D.C. kitchen, during which he helped his wife open and run a restaurant in southern Maryland, Klink returns to the city's dining scene in the role of executive chef of one of the city's newest eating locales, Del Frisco's Grille.

"This restaurant concept is very different from Oceanaire," Klink said. But he is happy to be back in the city. "I am in the same neighborhood, and I have some of the same clientele. I like the open kitchen here. It has changed the way I do my job. I am now more patient because I am always onstage. That builds better kitchens habits."

If you go
Del Frisco's Grille
Where: 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Info: 202-450-4686; delfriscosgrille.com
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m.

Klink explains that the menu features several core items available at other locations of this restaurant group. "But I get my say," says Klink, letting his seafood passion shine through. "The most popular dish is our tuna tacos. I love the tacos, made with a prime grade tuna, fresh lime juice, salt and a spicy guacamole. It's like eating sushi."

Sounds like Klink has not strayed too far from his seafood focus after all, as he further expounds on what must be his favorite topic. "I tend to go with seafood as our featured dishes," he explained. Inspiration comes from flipping through magazines, browsing the Web or watching cooking shows with his wife. "I just read a Chesapeake seafood cookbook yesterday," he said. "But I pick up my ideas everywhere. And I collaborate with my staff."

To further underscore his call from the sea, Klink still deals with J.J. McDonnell, a Jessup-based sustainable seafood business. "We try to help local oysters and scallops," he said, "and we use really great local sea scallops." As he considers future changes to the menu, Klink's ideas still entail seafood: "We have oysters on the half shell," he says, "but I am going to change that to grilled oysters with Parmesan cheese. That is what I cook at home."

Del Frisco's Grille, whose roots extend to Louisiana, also plans to inject some Cajun flavors with a mid-Atlantic spin into some of its creations. Patrons should not be surprised if in the future they come across some Cajun gumbo gracing the menu.

Q&A

What is your comfort food?

I am a simple guy. So a good salad, and then everything else on the grille. Steaks, grilled asparagus and red bell peppers, all on the grille.

What's in your fridge?

A gallon of apple cider, cooked pasta, bottles of orange juice and milk. Some cheeses, condiments, homemade applesauce. Not a lot of food.

Which is your favorite restaurant?

Mandu and Matchbox

Which are your basic ingredients?

Salt and garlic. Salt can make anything taste good. That is, sea salt and kosher salt.

Who is your favorite chef?

Joel Robuchon, I would want to work for him. Then Marco Pierre White.

Recipe

Maryland-style crab dip

Serves 6

1 pound lump crabmeat

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 large egg

1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon paprika for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Place into a casserole dish, and bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika, and serve immediately with crackers or toast points.

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