From Thai and Korean to Filipino and Chinese, Asian cuisine of all sorts has been trending hard for years now. But we predict that in 2016, we’re going to see Israeli fare get lots and lots of love. Just think about the popularity of places like Balaboosta and Breads Bakery, the burgeoning shakshuka craze, the prevalence of harissa, and most especially, brand new restaurants like Timna, making thoroughly modern creations using traditional, Middle Eastern ingredients, such as freekah, tahini, sumac and more.
Photos by Michael Tulipan
Launched this summer in the East Village (ground zero for trendsetting eateries), Timna is a collaboration between Chef Nir Mesika, a vet of top restaurants in Tel Aviv, as well as Brooklyn’s own Zizi Limona, GM and Beverage Director Amir Nathan, and Ori Apple, former owner of Hummus Place. As a native of Israel with Moroccan heritage, chef Mesika’s menu draws inspiration from all over North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, with inspired takes on everything from Iraqi Sabich (fashioned as a fried eggplant and hardboiled egg salad), to springy curls of smoky, Bedouin-style Octopus; buried in charcoal and paired with grilled cabbage, hummus and yogurt.
It’s imperative to start a meal at Timna with a flowerpot of freshly baked Kubaneh Bread; a Yeminite-Jewish specialty as flaky and buttery as a brioche, and scattered with burnished sesame seeds. Each arrives with pots of crushed tomatoes and tangy housemade labaneh cheese for dipping, but if you can manage to restrain yourself (and we quite understand if you can’t), they’re also ideal vessels for sopping up a series of swoon-worthy sauces, which generally accompany each dish. Take ruby rectangles of Cured Tuna Sashimi, layered with spheres of crispy beet “leather”… you’ll probably need a dedicated loaf of Kubaneh, in order to take advantage of every last drop of herbaceous, sea green tabouli, cut with waves of garlicky tzatziki.
Happily for us (considering out well documented seafood obsession), Mesika has an exquisite way with under the sea delicacies of all sorts. He brilliantly thumbs his nose at the “no cheese and seafood” rule for instance, by pairing tentacles of fork-tender Calamari with salty, sturdy dominos of Halloumi, set atop a summery hash of charred corn and sweet za’alouk (a Moroccan puree of roasted red peppers, tomatoes and eggplant) and brightened with an airy swath of avocado mousse. Although his Saddle of Lamb is an equally appealing order; rosy hunks of meat nestled invitingly in a savory slump of lamb stock-moistened lentils, dusted with sparkles of dehydrated Persian lemon, and dotted with inkblots of molasses-rich black garlic.
So we say, bring on the shakshuka — which incidentally, at Timna, is reimagined as a Casablanca-style Sweetbreads dish, spicy with housemade harissa, and accented with a delicate quail egg. Because if the creative yet soulful cooking at the East Village restaurant is a sign of things to come, we’re eagerly anticipating a full-blown Israeli trend.
109 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY