Right at Om

The area’s hottest new chef, Rachel F. Klein, brings her vision of global flavor to Cambridge.

RACHEL F. KLEIN ISN’T YOUR TYPICAL BOSTONIAN. It’s almost certain that she’s never worn pearls or carried an L.L.Bean bag. With her shaggy do, trendy shoes and chunky silver jewelry, she’s the kind of gal you’d expect to find in a cooler-than-thou dive bar hanging with up-and-coming musicians.

Which is exactly where you probably would have found her before she moved here in 2006 to open Harvard Square’s ultimate hipster restaurant and lounge, Om (92 Winthrop St., Cambridge 617-576-2800, www.omrestaurant.com). A Brooklyn native with more than a decade of experience at top restaurants in New York and Providence, Klein has the right blend of experience to cater to Boston’s growing army of jet-set epicureans, who are both familiar with and appreciative of her worldly offerings, from Asian-style pork belly to hamachi sashimi with confit peaches and yellow banana peppers.

The area’s hottest new chef, Rachel F. Klein, brings her vision of global flavor to Cambridge.

Like many chefs, Klein became intrigued by food as a young child. She religiously watched Julia Child, the Frugal Gourmet and her grandmother—a “cute Jewish lady with a thick Eastern European accent”—who showed her how to make old-country dishes like strudel and stuffed cabbage. Her parents, too, loved to cook—and travel. She ate it up. “I’d eat anything,” she says. “The longer and more complex the name of the dish, the more I wanted to try it.”

The desire to seek out the exotic stayed with Klein. In New York, she wasn’t the typi¬cal foodie who raved about Jean Georges or Le Bernardin. She preferred the ethnic grocery stores of Brooklyn and cutting-edge downtown haunts. No wonder, when it came to getting her first restaurant job after culinary school, she chose to work at the hipster heaven Paramount Hotel New York City, where she was a saute cook. From there, she moved to The Screening Room, Savoy and then Annisa, where she worked under rising star chef Anita Lo.

Wanting to strike out on her own, Klein moved to Providence in 2002. She won awards at XO Cafe (now XO Steak House), and in 2004 opened Lot 401, where she turned out Asian-inspired dishes such as Asian-lacquered duck breast and salmon with a sesame rice cabbage bundle (there’s that cabbage again) and candied-ginger beurre blanc. Within the year, Lot 401 was named one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants.

Klein is determined to bring that same fresh approach to the Boston dining scene, adding at least one unexpected flavor to each dish: perhaps a Middle Eastern pomegranate molasses, Chinese hot mustard or Moroccan-inspired clementine aioli. “Steak with garlic mashed potatoes and demi-glace is delicious, but to me it’s flat,” she says. “I want something to clean your palate, something that isn’t dull.”

Dull her food is not. At Om, the duck confit comes with pear mostarda, Urfa pepper and pine nut brittle. And the popular salmon with beets gets a hit of wasabi crème fraîche and Meyer lemon gastrique. Even steak has a twist: Along with potatoes and asparagus, Klein serves an aromatic fried truffle egg. “I don’t want anything to be standard,” she says. “I want my food to be memorable.” And just like Klein herself, it is.