I had one of the best meals of my life at Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale Minnesota. When you go there, you can expect a meal that’s a whimsical odyssey through the culinary gastronomy of new American food. But if you want to eat at Travail you need to get there early, this restaurants a hot spot, and unfortunately it doesn’t take reservations, but it does have a wait at your own risk line thats been known to have a 1-2 hour+ waiting list on busy week nights. Most days you can find a line starting to form out front around 4:45. That’s the time we got there the night I got to eat at Travail, and there was already quite a long line starting when we got there. But standing there waiting just built up the anticipation, I couldn’t wait for the curtain in the front window to swing open, signifying that the show was starting, and the food was about to come rolling out. We had walked by the night before, when the front window, where the desserts are prepared, was full of mini donuts and eclairs, and it had left me ready to taste everything!
The best seats in the house are right in front, at the bar by the kitchen. That’s where you’ll actually get to watch all food be prepared by Travails imaginative chefs. While Travails interior is trendy, it was designed to take a step back and let the food have center stage, while still retaining a classically modern feeling restaurant. The warm woods add richness, the mason jars give it a sense of home, while the lighting, exposed hvac system, and tinted concrete floors give the space an industrial edge. My favorite finishes in the restaurant are the chalk boards, used for the simple menus stationed throughout the room, the chalk boards are easily changed with the restaurants constantly evolving seasonal menu. While you’re deciding on what you’ll eat while at Travail, you’ll notice that the menu items are listed by the protein with no other description, feel free to ask your waiters all about your meal, they know every detail since their the ones that’ll be preparing it.
Travails prices are extremely reasonable, with individual courses starting at only $4 and just two going all the way up to $14. The 10 course Tasting Menu for two, comes in at just $60. And the Tasting Dessert, which is three full size desserts for just $9, is a definite steal and must be had by all. An added bonus to the restaurant, was the large wine list complete with local wines and ciders.
Our meal was absolutely wonderful, we shared each course except for our entries, and we only failed to share because they were so good, we didn’t want to give up even a bite. Here’s a quick run down of our meal. We started with a cucumber and melon salad. It was marvelously refreshing, we ate it after coming in from a hot summer day, and it really helped cool us down. It was made with chunks of cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, and cucumber each fruit enhanced the others flavors, to be much more intense than expected, it also had a melon dressing and crispy topping.
Next up was a steak tartare with Japanese salad and tamagoyaki. This was a much more savory dish and a good way to transition into the meal. I have always wanted to try steak tartare. As a child I would eat raw seasoned chop meat from the Italian butcher, and it’s remained one of my favorite foods, but it isn’t exactly safe to go around eating raw meat, so when I saw steak tartare on the menu I jumped at the chance to have it again. Luckily for me the entire plate was as good as the tartare, which was well flavored with an Asian seasoning, the light salad with bean sprouts and radishes cleaned the palate, while the tamagoyaki was mouthwatering and perhaps the best thing on the plate. Tamagoyaki is an Asian omelet, but this perfectly cube shaped steamed egg was velvety in texture with a savory flavor.
The fish and chips were really, good and a wonderful price for the portion size, just $4. It was made up of one large piece of a white fish, that had been thickly and crisply battered, underneath the fish was a cauliflower and vinegar based coleslaw that was a perfect flavor match to the fish, it also added the matching vinegar bite that fried fish needs to perfectly set of the batter.
For my entrée I had seared scallops with cauliflower foam and poached Asian pear, and I was not disappointed at all. Scallops can be tricky to work with, but these scallops were cooked perfectly, they had a beautiful golden sear, and the foam was just to die for. I can’t even begin to explain how good cauliflower foam can taste. It was full of flavor, rich and creamy, with the texture more like a custard then an airy foam. The scallops were also paired with broccoli, small pieces of sweet radishes, and the poached Asian pears still had a nice crispness even after cooking.
Desserts are always my favorite and Travail definitely did not lack in desserts like most restaurants. This was not a brownie sunday kind of place, though if they ever make one, you can be sure it will be phenomenal. We started off with the mini desserts, these go out to each table in the restaurant and change every night, they seem to have a classic childhood dessert theme. Each one is a perfect, bite size, extremely moist dessert of your dreams. The first was a no bake peanut butter cookie with a tiny bit of bacon infused whipped cream on top. The second, my favorite, was a cube of pale pink cake that tasted of pure pink raspberries, and the third was a white macaroon with a golden brown filling that tasted of smoke and cinnamon.
After that wonderful tease by Travails amazing pastry chefs we couldn’t resist getting the Tasting dessert which came with three different full-sized desserts that we could try. I really loved two of the three desserts, the first of which was a deconstructed peach pie. The peaches were cooked until the were perfectly soft, sweet, and covered in a sugary glaze. Then they were placed on a long plate on top of candied walnuts and raspberry sauce and eaten with a large scoop of wonderfully creamy vanilla ice cream. Each bite, was the perfect bite, of a peach pie a la mode.
The last dessert was also the perfect way to end the night at Travail, it captured the restaurants whimsy perfectly. The desert was decadent and playful, made with miniature churros. These really weren’t just any churros, these were filled with a thick sweet sauce that tasted of sugar, caramel, and espresso, it was so thick it was almost a glaze. They were served with a cup of extremely sweet and creamy espresso to dip them in, and each churro came out placed in one of three different complementary sauces raspberry, chocolate with chocolate covered coffee beans, or caramel to add even more dimension to their flavor.
Since I won’t be able to get back to Robbinsdale anytime soon, it’s quite a long plane ride away, let me know what your meal at Travail was like! I would love to see your pictures!!!
To plan your trip to Travail check out their Facebook page for pictures of the incredible meals! https://www.facebook.com/Travailkitchen
4154 West Broadway, Robbinsdale, MN
To Call: (763) 535-1131
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 5-10