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Clink General Manager Kerem Benyamini

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This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.

[Photo: Cal Bingham]

Kerem Benyamini has been with Clink ever since it opened inside the Liberty Hotel five years ago, and he's been general manager for the past three years. Kerem came to Clink from another Boston hotel, the Westin Copley Plaza. Eater spoke with Benyamini about how the restaurant caters to its hyper-local clientele as well as out-of-town visitors staying at the hotel. Also, Robert De Niro and a fish head.

What's the busiest night? Thursday, Friday and Saturday overall are the busiest, but we have events throughout the week that attract patrons, like Art Gallery Tuesdays.

How far in advance do people make reservations? We have a lot of repeat customers, so what they tend to do is just tell us on their way out when they're planning to come back so we can reserve a table for them. Overall, people will reserve about three months out, especially during the busier seasons.

What percentage is reservations versus walk-ins? During the week it's about 70 percent reservations. It's higher on weekends about 80-85 percent.

What's the wait? We always hold a portion of tables for our repeats and locals but if there is a wait, we do our best to seat them in 30-45 minutes. One of the things we've done to avoid making people wait is extending the restaurant through the lobby and our catwalk lounge. We offer the full Clink menu in both locations so patrons can order something while they wait, or have their entire meal there.

What are some of the more popular menu items? The seared sea scallops and roasted monkfish are really popular. In terms of more staple items, people love the hand cut pappardelle with lamb ragu and the chicken with sunchoke and mushroom pot pie.

Are those your personal favorites, too? You can't go wrong with the pappardelle. I'm a red meat kind of guy though, so the dry aged strip loin is my favorite.

What's the single must-order dish? If you're coming in for just for cocktails and appetizers, definitely the veal sliders, which are always on the menu. But for something seasonal and really special, the crispy soft shell crab is a must.

How's it served? The crab is breaded with rice flour which makes the outside nice and crispy. It's seasoned with garam masala and served with red quinoa and hearts of palm. The garam masala really makes it unique. It's perfect for the season and only available until the end of the month.

Had any strange requests lately? We have a halibut dish on the menu and not long ago, we had a customer request that dish with the head on the plate, which we were more than happy to do, but it led to several other questions, such as, did the they want it without or without the eyeballs. You learn to accommodate guests in any way you can and you also adapt. Something that was strange five years might not seem so unusual now.

How would you describe your clientele? A large percentage of our clientele are our neighbors, Beacon Hill residents. Other than that it's a mixed bag. During the week we host several business dinners. On the weekends there are bigger parties, couples, and people staying overnight at the hotel. The crowd tends to be about 28-45 on average.

Do the different demographics tend to order the same? The younger crowd that comes during the weekend tends to order more appetizers and lots of cocktails. Overall they also take more risks in terms of the menu. At the business dinners, it's lots of red meat and seafood, and more wine than cocktails.

Any celebrities sightings? We see a lot actually, especially when movies are filming in Boston. They'll come and stay at the hotel and will often ask for a tour since we're housed in a historic building. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got a tour and Robert De Niro has been in.

When you're not at Clink, where do you like to go? The waterfront area has really taken off. I like going to the Legal Seafood waterfront roofdeck. Del Frisco's is another great spot to hang out.

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