Timna TLV opens after winning critical acclaim

Today, there is a significant cadre of Israeli chefs who have become famous abroad.

Some, like Moshik Roth and Assaf Granit, built their reputations here and later became known for their restaurants in Europe.

Others went to train abroad and stayed there to open restaurants and write cookbooks.

And then there’s Nir Mesika, who grew up in Israel, moved to the US and won accolades for his Mediterranean restaurant Timna in Manhattan, and recently returned to his homeland to open a sister restaurant to his successful company in the East Village ( which has since closed, victim of the pandemic).

Mesika gave us a sneak peek at her talents a couple of years ago, when she made a guest appearance on L28 that was covered in this column (see the 12.5.2019 review).

Interestingly, her local reincarnation of Timna now stands just a few doors down on Lilienblum Street, in the premises once occupied by the late and lamented fine restaurant Carmen.

Timna TLV’s redesigned venue combines the intimacy of a wine cellar with the friendliness of an open kitchen. There is also a backyard with greenery and outdoor seating for most of the year; it is locked up in the winter. There are two seating areas, at the bar and at the tables, both in the indoor and outdoor section: the bar in the first offers a close-up view of the open kitchen, while the marble-topped bar in the second it is quite elegant.

Your Timna experience begins before you even arrive at the restaurant – a representative will call on the phone to ask if anyone in your party has special requests or dietary restrictions that the chefs can accommodate. We were impressed that our server was aware of our requirements without us having to explain or reiterate anything.

The alcoholic drinks menu includes five cocktails, but none are really a house specialty. Additionally, we were happy to put off our alcohol consumption until we embarked on the wine pairing that is an integral part of the Timna experience.

There are no food menus, as the concept here is a fixed tasting menu whose eight courses (350 NIS) vary from night to night. Also, the staff speak very good English and explain each dish in detail as it is served.

They also suggest wines, detailed in a [Hebrew-only] list, which have been specially selected to combine with the food courses. There are two pairing formats: three whole glasses or six half glasses. (Chef Mesika recommended the first option).

Our first glass of sparkling Chardonnay was served just before our meal began with a tiny cylinder of crop cheese wrapped in beetroot carpaccio, served alongside a dollop of Maggi tartare and a razor-thin potato tuile.

The smoked goat cheese in thin vegetable skin was complemented perfectly with the airy tomato sauce and the delicate biscuit.

The only problem with this delicious appetizer is that as soon as you start to taste the dish, it is finished.

Then it was a small bite of roasted grouper with glass noodles in dashi broth. What stole the show in this dish was the slightly spicy Japanese consommé, which we would have gladly drank from a glass.

The next course heralded a more substantial succession of servings, starting with amberjack sashimi alongside freekeh tabbouleh sprinkled with Persian raisins.

Extremely fresh raw whitefish is interspersed with crispy tapioca tuiles and thin slices of radish and cucumber, and is lifted to new heights with an intriguing novelty tzatziki vinegar dressing.

This unusual Iranian-Japanese dish was as delicious as it was elegant.

This dish was served with boutique Amit Toledo Sauvignon Blanc, a commendable and relatively unknown white, which we were going to enjoy until it was time to switch to red.

The wine was served right after glasses, plates, cutlery and napkins were changed, as was done after each course, no matter how small.

What followed was nothing like what you’d expect: individual kubana loaves, served with gravy-flavored labaneh and s’hug.

Strange as it may be that a mini loaf of house bread is served as a side dish in its own right in the middle of a meal, one bite of this heavenly Yemeni brioche and you’ll know why it’s arguably Mesika’s flagship and iconic offering.

Two seafood dishes succeeded the kubana: the first was an exquisite skewer of shrimp and scallops in an Indian curry sauce, with a zucchini flower stuffed on top of a Japanese squash. The standout sauce screamed for na’an to clean it up, but I cheekily ate what was left with a soup spoon.

A skewer of shrimp and scallops in an Indian curry sauce, with a zucchini flower stuffed on top of a Japanese squash at Timna TLV. (credit: ASAF KARELA)

Second was the grilled octopus with red cabbage, lamb belly (funnily enough, no pork is served, despite the plethora of other treif), and yuzu kosho aioli. I’m not generally a fan of octopus, but this version was excellent.

Next was the only meat dish of the night: mashed filet mignon with fermented koji rice (to soften), white pepper foam, black garlic sauce and demi-glace, served with shimeji and oyster mushrooms.

The meat was tender and succulent, and complemented very well with the elegant seasonings and vegetables.

The red wine chosen by the chef for this dish was Montepulciano from Abruzzo, an Italian vintage that is not full-bodied but robust enough for our steak.

The dessert came in two stages: ginger and lemongrass tea served as a soup with [green] Apple Cinnamon Noodles – A hot palate cleanser that hit the spot. And finally: poached pear spiced with cardamom, custard flavored with tonka, sweet black couscous and Indian halva.

Exotic spices helped create the ideal light and delicious finish to a memorable meal, which you can revisit with the help of an iconographic menu that is handed out as an old-fashioned souvenir of your departure.

Not kosher
Lilienblum Street 24, Tel Aviv
Tel. (077) 997-9777
The writer was a guest of the restaurant.


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