Timna Restaurant by Milman Design Build
Timna, in the East Village of lower Manhattan, was a project brought to us at Milman Design Build by Master Chef Nir Mesika. Chef Mesika chose the name because for him it had deep cultural and personal resonance. From a cultural perspective it was the name associated with a long forgotten kingdom that occupied much of present day Yemen thousands of years ago, as well as the Timna Valley in southern Israel that was part of the ancient Frankincense Trail. And from a personal perspective it spoke of his family’s ties to the Middle East, his love of the diverse and captivating landscape and his personal experience bringing the rich culinary history of the region to new audiences.
A Unique Opportunity
For Timna our goal then was to evoke the spirit of the ancient Frankincense Trail. To make this oasis in the East Village seem like it could have been lifted lock, stock and barrel from a tiny square in Sanaa or Aqaba or from a genuine desert oasis in the Timna Valley. It was a unique opportunity to delve into and indulge our love of natural materials, age old building methods and the challenges and joys of finding new purposes for old materials and furnishings. The result, we hope, also dovetails perfectly with the eclectic and unpretentious take Chef Mesika brings to Middle Eastern cuisine.
Celebrating the Versatility of Traditional Materials
Natural materials were used throughout including hardwood planking, exposed brick, hand painted tiles, wood blocks, one-of-a-kind copper light fixtures, wrought iron and thick quartz-slab countertops. Holding it all together both practically and aesthetically is ingeniously deployed steel piping and a cacophony of electrical wiring that snakes from room to room providing power and visual continuity. While the main bar is possessed by just the faintest echos of frontier spirit.
Let the Sunshine In
In keeping with Chef Mesika’s desire to adhere to the principles of responsible development most of the daytime illumination comes from the outside via large accordion-style window panels we installed along Saint Mark’s Place. The overall effect conjures associations with the grotto like nature of much architecture from the Middle East and North Africa. It helps the visitor transition from the hustle and bustle of present day Manhattan to a more relaxed, timeless atmosphere marked patient hospitality, good food and friendly service.
Where the Old World Meets the New
Speaking of food, it was also important that the Middle Eastern menu not seem out of place. To that end great care was taken to ensure the overall feel of the restaurant would seem just as at-home in one of the dusty, millennium old outposts on the ancient Frankincense Trail as it does along Saint Mark’s Place. This fusion of Old World culinary and architectural motifs with New World building and food prep techniques and presentation is bound to whisper to the heart while delighting the senses.
The Finishing Touches
The outside of Timna is as unassuming as the menu. There are no big neon signs, no barkers assaulting the unsuspecting and attempting to usher them inside against their will. Restraint is the order of the day. The facade of Timna is perfectly in keeping with the rich architectural traditions of New York just as the interior is with the rich traditions of desert architecture. While most of the tables are custom designed and hand built, the chairs that welcome visitors to those tables have a world weary, lived in quality that encourages informality and conviviality. The overall effect is one of a rich tapestry of textures, shapes and materials that echoes and informs the peerless gastronomic offerings of Chef Mesika.
-Project description and photographs by Milman Design Build