East of East

WITH A DASH OF EXOTICISM AND PINCH OF SPICE, TIMNA BRINGS THE FAR EAST TO ST. MARK’S.

Photography by Henry Hargreaves; By Alexandria Geisler

Just inside the East Village, a tucked away, virtually-unmarked kitchen is currently turning out some of Manhattan’s finest food— and yet, momentarily blink on your way to PDT and you’ll probably miss it. Illuminated by tea-light candles, the small dining room is cozy and intimate; its atmosphere a mash-up of old (original exposed brick) and new (mixing-bowl-turned-light-fixtures). In fact, it’s precisely this push-pull between tradition and invention that is the pulse of Timna.

Clockwise from L to R: Silk Satin Wristlet, The Row ($1,590); net-a-porter.com. Silver Chaos Ring ($265) and Loop Choker ($785), both Jennifer Fisher. 103 Fifth Ave.; 212.625.2380. Sculptural Earrings, Rosie Assoulin ($695); modaoperandi.com. Chloe Sandal, Tibi ($495); 120 Wooster St.; 212.226.5852.

Clockwise from L to R: Silk Satin Wristlet, The Row ($1,590); net-a-porter.com. Silver Chaos Ring ($265) and Loop Choker ($785), both Jennifer Fisher. 103 Fifth Ave.; 212.625.2380. Sculptural Earrings, Rosie Assoulin ($695); modaoperandi.com. Chloe Sandal, Tibi ($495); 120 Wooster St.; 212.226.5852.

The work of Tel Aviv transplant, Chef Nir Mesika, the modern Israeli restaurant marries the beloved flavors of the Mediterranean, North Africa and Middle East with ambitious, Michelin-quality cooking. Familiar notes of spicy harissa, tzatziki and tahini are the backbones from which Mesika’s myriad of small plates builds— dishes like grilled calamari with mussel confit and paprika lost bread, and roasted beets with beluga lentils and date molasses— all of which rarely showcase the same plating twice (his culinary creativity is palpable). Indeed, no course short on texture— think sauces, powders, puffed grains and dried fruits, nor no micro-green left too adulterated to shine, Timna’s culinary artistry proves an unlikely bedfellow to spring’s high-impact, shape-heavy accessories.

Take, for example, Timna’s roasted cauliflower starter: the vegetable is first cooked sous-vide, then flash-fried and set atop a brushstroke-like harissa carrot purée, dried grapes and puffed quinoa. Bold in shape, color and flavor, the dish screams as loud as designer Rosie Assoulin’s asymmetrical cut-out earrings or Jennifer Fisher’s loop-sculpted choker; its plating as elegant and innovative as The Row’s midnight blue evening bag with “all-eyes-on-you” cascading tassel. Other appetizers at Timna prove no less theatrical— its answer to the token dinner bread basket? Kubaneh bread, a traditional Yeminite-Jewish brioche, served here in a small, Instagram-worthy flower pot.

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Clockwise from L to R: Open Sphere Cuff, Tomas Maier ($570); 407 Bleecker St.; 212.547.8383. Suede Mules, Mansur Gavriel ($475); net-a-porter.com. Chaos Ring, Jennifer Fisher ($265); 103 Fifth Ave.; 212.625.2380. Organic Ring, Lizzie Fortunato ($185); shopbop.com. Rosetta Clutch, Jimmy Choo ($575); 716 Madison Ave.; 212.759.7078. Gold Disk Earrings, Oscar de la Renta ($290); Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave., 212.753.7300.

Though menu changes are frequent, a Mediterranean-style sashimi is one of the kitchen’s signatures and has been a permanent nightly fixture since opening. Here, Mesika garnishes coral, cured tuna with green tabouli, tzatziki, crispy beet leather and house-made ponzu. As complicated as it first may sound, it’s easily the best iteration of the classic seafood dish we’ve ever tasted— a fitting compliment to gold-standard modern classics like Mansur Gavriel’s mules, Tomas Maier’s open-wire cuff and Jimmy Choo’s envelope bag.

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Clockwise from L to R: Dal Ring with Agate, Anndra Neen ($185); latestrevival.com. Mesh Mules, Chloé ($580); net-a-porter.com. Keaton Pendant Necklace, Elizabeth & James ($135); shopbop.com. Saddle Bag, Sophie Hulme ($695); shopbop.com. Sculptural Pomegranate Earrings, Rosie Assoulin ($595); modaoperandi.com. Triple Organic Stud Cuff, Jennifer Fisher ($1,015), 103 Fifth Ave.; 212.625.2380. Abbott Cuff, Elizabeth & James ($275); shopbop.com.

As for the restaurant’s deeply-satisfying octopus dish, Meskia takes inspiration from the traditional Bedouin preparation of chicken in which the bird is buried beneath hot coals. At Timna, the mollusk is braised in beer and spices, then grilled and buried under coals until ready to plate over earthy black eggplant purée, charcoal-grilled cabbage and charred tomato. As succulent and smoky as you’d hope it’d be, the sea tentacle is reminiscent of Rosie Assoulin’s pomegranate earrings, both in color and form. In taste, it’s as freshly-caught as Chloé’s netted slip-ons seem to cheekily suggest.

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Clockwise from L to R: Beaded Teardrop Earrings, Oscar de la Renta ($590); modaoperandi.com. Crocodile Embossed Clutch, Elizabeth & James ($285); shopbop.com. 18k Gold Ring, Ralph Masri ($782); TenOverSix, 8425 Melrose Ave. 14k Gold Ring with Diamonds, Aurora Bailey ($2,047); thefeathered.com. Gold Plated Choker, Kenneth Jay Lane ($95); net-a-porter.com. Mira 80 Sandal, Jimmy Choo ($925). 716 Madison Avenue; 212.759.7078.

Going back, for a moment, to Timna’s lighter side, a newly-featured ceviche takes its cues from a Jimmy Choo sandal and bright green Oscar de la Renta hoop earrings: it’s bright, it’s punchy and it’s all-around playful. At once cool and creamy, a lime avocado mousse surrounds a Black Bonito crudo with raw cauliflower and puffed rice for crunch, curry aoili for kick and shaved radishes and corn kernels for a tinge of sweetness. It’s the kind of plate you’d want on the table as you catch up with a friend over a bottle of crisp white wine and let the night linger.

If you’re dining out for date night, it should be noted that the restaurant’s small selection of meats are of the same caliber as its seafood. There is short rib ragout with chanterelle mushrooms and aged parmesan, sweetbreads crusted with tahini in a charred tomato stew, and on a recent visit, a grassy lamb t-bone with in-season fava beans and artichokes. It tastes fresh and spring-like, and yet, garnished with a cardamom yogurt and freekeh, it takes on an exoticism much like our adventure-begging accessories (Tabitha Simmons’ suede sandals, Anndra Neen’s mother-of-pearl cocktail ring and Inés Figaredo’s eye clutch have us dreaming of globe-trotting). For the most part, ingredients at Timna are sourced locally— antibiotic-free meat, grass-fed beef, wild-caught seafood, and cage-free, organic eggs and chicken— but Chef Mesika does import specialty products like tahini from Palestine’s Nablus for authenticity.

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Clockwise from L to R: Suma Ring with Mother of Pearl, Anndra Neen ($185); latestrevival.com. Glass Eye and 24k Gold Leather Clutch, Inés Figaredo ($1,400); luisaviaroma.com. Ring Bolo Necklace, Madewell ($38); 115 Fifth Ave.; 212.228.5172. Viva Suede Sandals, Tabitha Simmons ($745); net-a-porter.com. Oval Cage Clutch, Anndra Neen ($675); latestrevival.com.

Behind the restaurant’s bar program, Beverage Director Amir Nathan has curated an especially-affordable wine list featuring Mediterranean bottles (our favorite white being a Jeune Blanc from Lebanon; our preferred red, an Israeli Carignan), as well as a cocktail menu highlighting interesting amari and vermouths. The Mediterranean Reviver (a play on the classic Corpse Reviver) features Cocchi Americano, Dolin dry vermouth and house-made star anise and juniper syrups; the Avenue A Express is an elixir of coriander-infused Cocchi Americano, IPA simple syrup, lime and muddled juniper berries. From 6 to 7:30 pm on all nights excluding Fridays and Saturdays, Timna offers a “bar special” with select appetizers and one glass of wine for $15. Though we can’t imagine you’d need another reason to get yourself there, we’ll leave you with that last one. Timna, 109 St. Marks Place, 646.964.5181; timna.nyc. 

*Special thanks to prop stylist Sophie Strangio. CP

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