Dining Out: Trek to Hanover for Timbuktu Crab Cake is worth the trip

When I first moved into this area, I wasn’t quite sure what a Maryland crab cake was. I had grown up in South Jersey, and there we had what I considered pretty great crab cakes.

It wasn’t until someone told me to go to Timbuktu that I first understood the difference between a regular old crab cake and the proud Maryland crab cake. Now, years later, I wanted to know what else I was missing-out on at the famous Timbuktu.

From the outside, it is obvious that the Timbuktu has been around for a while. Inside the restaurant has floor-to-ceiling oak wood paneling and large mirrors. The odor of seafood coming from the kitchen was pervasive. My first thought was, “This is my mother’s kind of restaurant.”

Right from the start, you get the impression that crab is what’s on the menu.

The waitress didn’t even bother with specials, and when we asked her what besides crab cake was good on the menu, she told us that everyone usually just gets the crab cake. The wine list was not extensive, but the wines that were on it were good selections at reasonable prices. My daughter, Jessica, was sharing in the wine so we chose a bottle of the Relaxed Riesling. After ordering our entrees and receiving our wine, we waited for a while before we saw our waitress again. When she came back she had her arms full of food.

Chandra ordered the Single Crab Cake platter (How could you not?) ($25.99). The portion size is huge -- 1/2 pound each, with large chunks of jumbo lump crab. There is very little filler in this crab cake, and the binding is almost creamy. The Timbuktu crab cake is simply delicious. Unfortunately, the vegetable of the day was not nearly as good. Half the broccoli was cooked properly, but the other half was almost grey. Neither half tasted good.

Trevor, Jessica’s beau, chose the Land and Sea ($35.99). This was a 10 ounce New York strip with two stuffed shrimp. It’s not just the crab cakes that are a large portion. Every platter that came out was enormous. His steak was good quality, prepared properly, but a little fatty. The mashed potatoes were simply awful. They tasted days old, as if they had been made from old baked potatoes. The stuffed shrimp were pretty good, though only because they were stuffed with that amazing crab cake. The shrimp themselves were a little overcooked and tasteless.

Jessica ordered the Jewel of the Sea ($36.50). This was a 5 ounce petite lobster tail, shrimp, scallops, Tilapia, and a crab cake - all broiled. The scallops and shrimp were fine, the Tilapia was dry and flavorless, and lobster was just bad. It was over cooked and tasted old. The flavor almost ruined my meal.

I ordered the Lamb and Crab Cake ($33.99). Like the steak, the 10 ounce Lamb Chop was a decent cut, though a little fatty. It was properly seasoned and had some enjoyable flavor to it. As much as I like the crab cake here, I thought my particular crab cake was a tad under-seasoned. Fortunately, in addition to pepper and salt they had an Old Bay shaker on the table.

After a bit of a rest (and a short nap) we all pressed forward with dessert. I ordered three items for the table, and we all promised ourselves we would just take a bite of each. We are such liars.

The Bread Pudding with Butter Rum Sauce ($6.25) was very good. This was almost an old-world bread pudding with an enjoyable texture. The bread itself was under-sweet, which was perfect for the over-sweet butter rum sauce.

The Crème brûlée ($6.25) was just okay. The custard part was probably a mix, but a good quality one. The brûlée needed more sugar on top, and the custard was too thick. Also, the custard had a butterscotch flavor to it, even though it was supposed to be vanilla.

The Strawberry Cheese Cake ($7.25) was fair. It had bits of strawberry in it and a strawberry jam layered on top, which was much better than the strawberry topping I had feared. Unfortunately, this particular cheese cake had been in the freezer too long. There were unmistakable signs of freezer burn throughout the texture of the cheese cake.

In the end, the lesson is clear: you go to Timbuktu for the crab cake. Outside of that, I feel that things could be better. Admittedly, the other guests in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying themselves, and the restaurant certainly was busy. On the other hand, looking around the room, most people ordered the crab cake.

I know I’ll be back myself for another one soon.

David Ludwig is a Chef Instructor, HCAT Institute at Anne Arundel Community College.

Timbuktu

WHERE: 1726 Dorsey Road, Hanover

PHONE: 410-796-0733

WEBSITE: www.timbukturestaurant.com

HOURS: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.;

Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

LUNCH: $9 to $22

DINNER: $18 to $50

RESERVATIONS: recommended

CREDIT CARDS: All Major Cards accepted

ACCESSIBILITY: Yes

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