Smoky Summer Eggplant Salad via Timna, NYC
photo: Liat Halpern

Smoky Summer Eggplant Salad via Timna, NYC

Nir Mesika, Chef/Owner of Timna in NYC, plays boldly with unexpected flavors which pair perfectly with quieter elements in his carefully balanced dishes. His Moroccan inspired creations, with roots in Israel and more subtly influenced by his time in Milan, are almost always connected in some way, to his mother’s and grandmother’s cooking.

Nir Mesika; Timna
Chef/Owner of Timna, Nir Mesika. Photo: Michael Tulipan

Consider his smoky eggplant salad (recipe below) which highlights juicy summer tomatoes and smooth purple eggplants we’ll soon welcome to our farmers’ markets. These ingredients are as ubiquitous in Middle Eastern cooking as chickpeas and tehini.

Mesika’s smoky eggplant salad is seasoned with generous amounts of raw garlic, amba (pickled mango), plenty of lemon juice and two hands full of fresh herbs.

Dig in and you’ve tasted Mesika’s roots with his own very personal viewpoint. Drizzle a generous cup of unmixed tehini  around the plate’s perimeter and you’ve tasted the rich and nutty balance to all of those citrusy elements.

Mesika’s restaurant in the East Village reflects the spirit of this Israeli chef’s warm smile as he steps out of the kitchen to greet both *curious visitors and repeat customers in the know. The vibe is casual in that warm Israeli way you may know from your travels. Plating is attractive but unfussy, service is fine, and the food is outstanding.

Timna, NYC
Photo: Liat Halpern

Mesika comes from a large family in Israel where it was common for 40-50 family members to gather for Shabbat (Friday night) dinner. He watched his grandmother and mother prepare large quantities of traditional dishes with roots in Morocco. His grandfather, a lauded baker there, opened up shop in Israel.

Today, Mesika does most of the baking at Timna, highlighting flavors (rosewater, honey) and ingredients (semolina, pistachios, halva) that would have been used by his grandfather.

There’s plenty to eat for the vegetarian and kosher leaning crowd here. The menu changes every two weeks but let’s hope that quick pickled watermelon topped with tuna tartar, wasabi peas, ponzu and fresh cilantro hangs around through August.

Timna NYC watermelon salad
Photo: Liat Halpern

Mesika’s take on sashimi highlights yellowtail carpaccio, avocado mousse, pickled ginger and yuzo punctuated with crunchy puffed rice.

Timna, NYC
Photo: Liat Halpern

Connected to his roots? Not a bit. But he loves Asian food and relishes the opportunity to experiment with flavors from that region.

If you’re vegetarian, vegan or Kosher Like Me, you’ll always find plenty of choices in the mezze section of Timna’s menu. The kubaneh bread with crushed tomatoes, creme fraiche and jalapeno salsa are worth the trip alone. And if you can score a side of those pickled sumac onions you’ll have an empty seat next to you on the train ride home.

Timna, NYC
Photo: Shahar Azran

*Mesika opened in 2015. USA TODAY proclaimed this casual hotspot the best new restaurant in ALL of the USA for that year!

Timna is located at 109 St. Marks Place in NYC

Note: Timna is not a kosher restaurant.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post which means that making a purchase through one of these links yields a small percentage to Kosher Like Me. Thanks for helping me to keep up my blogging habit.



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