Must-Try Modern Israeli

Timna brings the flavor in the East Village

Roasted cauliflower at Timna
Timna's modern Israeli fare is light and vibrant. (Photos: Michael Tulipan)

June 29, 2017

Going local isn’t something that chef Nir Mesika of the Timna had to learn, it’s something he’s done all his life.

In a recent interview, he regaled us with stories of a childhood spent zipping through the fields of Northern Israel on a bike and picking cauliflower and artichokes along the way.

These days, he picks his own oregano, thyme and basil that he grows at his 40-seat East Village restaurant and sources micro-greens from a Brooklyn rooftop.

Bedouin octopus at Timna
Grilled octopus is a signature at Timna.

The modern Israeli menu, which draws influence from the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa, changes constantly, but signatures include a tender and smoky octopus, first braised and then grilled in a heap of buried coals and served with grilled cabbage and black eggplant puree ($24) and cauliflower with a swirl of curried yogurt and onions pickled with ground sumac berries, which lend a red tint and punchy lemon flavor ($12).

The selection is so tantalizing and vibrant; it is barely noticeable that Mesika consciously does not serve any chicken or red meat (with the exception of the $17 organic Hudson Valley beef burger with grilled avocado and za’atar that is served at brunch). Mesika prefers to focus on lighter and more distinctive proteins (there are chicken dishes on seemingly every other restaurant menu) and he has concerns about beef’s negative impact on the environment.

Green herbs and grains (some puffed freekeh here, quinoa in place of bulgur wheat in a tabouli there) are found in just about every dish. “I’m a freak about fresh herbs,” Mesika admits. The current menu is a delicious riot of spring produce, including sorrel, green almonds, fresh chickpeas, morels, peas, rhubarb, spring radishes and white asparagus.

With such a focus on ingredients, it’s no surprise that Mesika is zealous about using everything that he sources. When it comes to food waste, “there are no leftovers in my kitchen,” he says. “We don’t put anything in the garbage.”

Mesika, a native of Israel with Moroccan and Egyptian heritage says, “I want to show how Israeli cuisine is much more than just hummus, falafel and shawarma.”

Consider us educated.

109 St. Marks Pl.
(646) 964-5181