Innovative menu in a rustic setting

Timber Creek draws from cuisines worldwide

Eats: dining reviews, Table talk

April 10, 2003|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

One wouldn't normally expect a Budweiser mirror or inexpensive chili-pepper posters in a restaurant that serves dishes like lobster and asparagus hand rolls and Moroccan grilled sea prawns, but at the Timber Creek Tavern, the casual decor and highfalutin' food make a fine combination.

Stuart Denrich took over the decades-old tavern about a year ago and installed his son, 24-year-old Aharon Denrich, as executive chef. The food is influenced by Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean, by way of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where Aharon Denrich learned his way around a kitchen.

This young executive chef has energy and confidence to spare, so much so that he crafts an extensive menu of specials every night except Monday, rarely offering the same thing twice. "I try to give them something different," he says. "If the food doesn't inspire you, what's the point in going out?"

The permanent menu offers salads, sandwiches, pasta, but elevates them beyond the typical. Steamed mussels are described as North African; a roasted-salmon sandwich is Tuscan.

Though the menu has been seriously upgraded, the restaurant itself retains a rustic charm, with a tin roof and wood paneling below paisley wallpaper. A large bar with a television dominates one side of the room, and a deck with a view of the Gunpowder River dominates the other.

However, I have a few quibbles. Over the course of the night, we came across the same ingredients several times. The garlic-roasted asparagus appeared in a hand roll and later as a side vegetable. The olives, artichoke hearts and chickpeas in a very nice Mediterranean salad showed up again in the couscous that was served with a main course of rockfish.

And about that couscous. It had all of the above, plus cranberries and walnuts. Too busy. And one more thing. A tower of food - rockfish on top of asparagus on top of couscous - is fine, but it needs a big plate for when the tower topples.

Those complaints are minor, though, compared to the overall pleasure of the experience. The wrapper on the lobster and asparagus hand roll may have been a little chewy, but the combination of flavors was delightful, as was the sesame and soy dipping sauce.

The rockfish was an enormous hunk of fresh and firm fish, and the steak was tender and juicy, though rarer than ordered. One appetizer in particular, the Maryland crab quiche en croute, was a gooey high-calorie delight, consisting of a crab and blue-cheese filling in a puff pastry. It was served with slices of excellent French bread.

The crab quiche was off the permanent menu, as was a tasty ham muffuletta sandwich, made with a generous pile of thin-sliced ham and served on a robust roll with a side salad.

The house-made chocolate-chip cheesecake and triple-layer chocolate cake we had for dessert were fantastic, but as with other dishes, too busy. Both arrived on plates swirled with unnecessary sauces. Though the large dollop of whipped cream on its plate balanced the richness of the chocolate cake, the chocolate chips sprinkled over the cheesecake disrupted the velvety pleasure of each bite.

Still, Timber Creek is a rarity - a family-owned restaurant in a beautiful location with an innovative, delicious and reasonably priced menu. It deserves to succeed.

Timber Creek Tavern

Where: 10092 Belair Road, Kingsville

Call: 410-529-7999

Open: For dinner Monday and Tuesday, lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sunday

Prices: Appetizers $5.99-$12.99; entrees $6.99 to $18.99

Credit cards: All major cards

Food: ***

Atmosphere: ***

Service: ***

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