Yet Another Israeli Restaurant Voted America’s Best by Major U.S. Publication

At Timna, chef Nir Mesika surprises diners with unexpected combinations of flavors, textures and ingredients, serving Israeli dishes with a twist.

Timna, in New York’s East Village.
Liat Halpern

Timna, in New York’s East Village, was voted the best new restaurant of 2015 by readers of USA Today. The restaurant opened in April.

Israeli-born chef Nir Mesika is behind the modern Israeli venue. 

Earlier this month, Shaya, the New Orleans restaurant belonging to Israeli-American chef Alon Shaya, was voted Restaurant of the Year by influential food website The Daily Meal. In November, Shaya was named Restaurant of the Year by another influential website, Eater. 

Unlike chef Shaya, who grew up in the United States, Mesika is a recent arrival from Israel. He attended Bishulim Culinary School in Tel Aviv, and worked at well-known Israeli restaurants including the seafood chain Goocha, and later Catit and Mizlala, acclaimed restaurants owned by Israeli celebrity chef Meir Adoni. He also opened a kosher Jewish restaurant in Milan. 

Mesika moved to New York with his wife when she got a job at the Israeli embassy there, he told USA Today. His first restaurant in the Big Apple was Zizi Limona, where he was executive chef. That restaurant opened in 2013.

Mesika partnered with fellow Israeli restaurateurs Ori Apple and Amir Nathan to launch Timna. 

The chef tried to explain the key to Timna’s success to USA Today.

“A few of the most popular, must-have items are the Bedouin Octopus, the Lamb Saddle and the Mediterranean Sashimi. I think that people love them because they are extremely surprising,” he said. “When one orders a dish from the menu, he or she envisions it in a certain way, but the combination of flavors, textures and ingredients I use is rather unexpected. 

“The sashimi is the perfect example; it combines a classic Mediterranean tabouli salad with seven different herbs, Asian ingredients, such as yuzu juice, ginger and Japanese ponzu,” he continued.

Mesika also speculated why Israeli food is proving so popular with American consumers. 

“I think that Israeli cuisine is very healthy and combines very unique and satisfying ingredients and flavors,” he told USA Today. “I think that the healthy and organic wave is much more than a trend here in the States; people have realized that food can be healthy and delightful, not one or the other. Israeli food fits this criteria perfectly; it combines various mixtures of spices, vegetables and grains which are perfect for anyone, carnivores as well as vegans.”

Last month, another New York-based Israeli chef, Einat Admony, launched her fifth restaurant, Combina, which serves “Israeli food with a Spanish twist.” 

Meanwhile, award-winning Israeli-American chef, Philadelphia-based Michael Solomonov, launched his restaurant-based cookbook “Zahav” to acclaim earlier this year.