Yassir Z. Raouli had a dream to showcase all he can do with food; a dream that turned into a reality when he started The Bistro Truck in 2009 — when the recession created a market for all sorts of business endeavors. The Bistro Truck was very successful, serving a loyal following of gourmet street-food lovers.
However, Raouli felt his business was outgrowing the constraints of truck-based operation, so he decided to venture into restaurant ownership. Because of this ambition, Rustic L.E.S. found its humble beginnings in the Lower East Side. Located at 124 Ridge St., Rustic L.E.S. is a narrow space with a small bar, five bar stools, and enough tables and seats to accommodate 10 people. The characteristically rustic space, renovated by Raouli himself, exudes cozy, casual ambiance.
Kelly Cook, a freshman in CAS, enjoyed her first experience at Rustic L.E.S.
“I liked the atmosphere,” Cook said. “It was really small…like eating at somebody’s house. And I like how the chefs came out and talked to people. It was really intimate.”
The food is as comforting as the atmosphere. Notable items on the dinner menu include Braised Oxtails simmered in a flavorful sauce, and Gratin pomme de Terre, which is a hot, cheesy mélange of potatoes, chestnuts, walnuts and cheddar.
“All of our dishes are meant to be shared,” The online menu says. “You’ll find this greatly reduces food envy.”
When discussing the menu, the increase in Raouli’s enthusiasm is noticeable.
“We change the menu every week depending on what’s seasonably available.” he said. “We get all our produce from the Essex Market, which is a great market with lots of local and organic produce.”
But, Raouli does not feel the need to advertise where his kitchen finds its ingredients.
“I don’t think organic or local food is something to be capitalized upon,” Raouli said. “I don’t write it on the menu because it should be the default, not the exception.”
Rustic L.E.S. serves brunch, lunch and dinner. Brunch ranges from $3 for muffins and croissants to $15 for a hearty Moroccan breakfast or a dry aged burger. Lunch items range from an affordable $6 for veggies tagine to $12 for crispy chicken salad. Dinner is the most expensive, but also the most promising, with a selection of sides ranging from $5-$8, main dishes ranging from $12-$22 and dessert for $7. Considering the sustainability of the ingredients and how well prepared the dishes are, Rustic L.E.S. provides a reasonably priced dinner that will leave you enormously satisfied without emptying your wallet.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 2 print edition. Katya Simkhovich is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.