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Aug 14, 2010 01:48 PM

Travail in Robbinsdale

Tried it last night for the first but not the last time.
Fantastic. we shared the beef tartre, tuna belly and the pressed pastrami sandwich. all were outstanding. Inexpensive, well prepared and well presented. It's great to have such a great restaurant so close to home. I can't wait to go back and try a foie gras dish that they are going to put on the menu. keep up the good work guys, everybody else try it and tell you friends about it.
Lets keep them in business. Great bunch of guys and great food.

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  1. Went for the first time on Thursday.

    The new space is cool. I love the open kitchen. They have a seating area at the front, kind of like a sushi bar. Great forum for these guys. You can watch them argue and improvise. My waiter/chef, pointed me to some chanterelle mushrooms that would be on the menu later that day.

    I ordered the kohlrabi soup and tofu ensemble. The soup was excellent. Pickled kohlrabi chips sank beneath a broth topped with a sous-vide egg. I loved the counterpoint there, and the broth was a substantive intermediary. If you are a soup person, this is your place.

    The tofu dish struck me as a sort of vegetarian hangover plate. Tofu cooked two ways (curd and crispy cube) and ditto rice (as paper and as crisp) accompanied by a soft cooked egg and some house made daikon.

    The daikon was simply out of place on the savory dish, which was otherwise good fun. That said, if I were a vegetarian, I might appreciate it more. It didn't strike me until afterward that I had ordered vegetarian plates, which has to be a good sign.

    The guys recognized me from the old place, and thusly comped a beer. A much appreciated bribe, but also a nice attention to detail. The place was half full during the lunch hour, which surprised me, given the surrounds.

    This was great. Not too much terribly new from Victory 44 (which remains great) but the innovation, value (everything clocks in under $10), and judicious editing remain intact.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kevin47

      When I had the Tofu, it was two pucks (see original thread, linked below), served in a broth. The dish you describe sounds better to me. I'd love some daikon and rice. I thought the tofu was quite good, it turns out to be house-made.

      I think there is a lot new / different than at V44. For one, about half of the menu is vegetarian friendly. I don't know if this is by design or coincidence, but you can't even get some fries at V44, they're cooked in bacon fat. There are just two simple salads for vegetarians there. There are things over $10 at Travail, Fish n' Chips, Charcuterie plate, but overall, I believe the portions and value are beating V44.

    2. Couldn't find a menu online, anyone else have better luck?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Enso

        It's on their Facebook page.

        Here is the original Travail thread, which has a review of mine from their Sneak Preview (as well as photo of original menu):

        They have since added:

        Summer Tomato Salad
        Zucchini Fazzoletti
        Steak and Sweet Corn
        Sea Scallop
        Kohlrabi Soup

        I visited them again since the update to the menu:

        Stopped in Saturday with my ND pal and my friends that are local to Travails area.

        For the amuse, we were given a cucumber mango chili oil shooter. Very nice. I believe different than the amuse from the Sneak Peek evening.

        I had the Agnolotti, ricotta filled pasta served in a butter sauce with peas and lima beans. Pasta was cooked nicely. The cheese in the pasta was colored green, I assume from peas, although there wasn't, to quote an unfortunate turn of phrase on "Iron Chef America", a really strong "peaness" to the dish.

        My meat eating pal had the Steak and Sweet Corn. Corn is one of the two vegetables he'll allow on the plate, the other being potato. Lucky for him, the dish also came with potato, a neat little stack of thin slices, somehow seared on all sides. The steak portion was literally 5 bite sized chunks, which while not a lot, were cooked perfectly to his medium request. He would later give the dish an 8 out of 10.

        His betrothed started with the Kohlrabi soup. It was served table side in a bowl that had thin slices of radish in it, house made tater tots, and apparently an egg at the bottom. For her entree, she had the Zucchini Fazzoletti, ribbons of pasta, thinly sliced zucchini (from giant zucchini, I didn't think this size squash was for eating), and yellow squash. She really enjoyed the soup, but when I tasted it, I found it coughingly salty.

        Her friend had the Butter Burger and enjoyed it.

        My ND friend had the Italian Sausage Pate Melt. It was a really nice sized sandwich, one of the better portions for any of the dishes. He really liked the sandwich, he gave it an 8 out of 10.

        We ordered dessert again. First we received an amuse of I believe watermelon and yuzu. Whatever, it was delicious. I later asked for my pint glass to be filled with it. The dessert platter was more voluminous and varied versus the platter we had during their "sneak peek". Caramel apple, chocolate mousse, "orea" cookie, cookie dough, brown butter biscuits, and yuzu cherry ice cream.

        I really like Travail. I like the fun they are having with their twists on dishes and their creative plating. The food I've had so far is delicious, and the portions are a bit better than their closest competitor (the cough syrup named place), and they've got more vegetarian options for the likes of me. They aren't taking themselves too seriously, there is a bean bag toss and shuffleboard game in the back. Unfortunately. I just cannot give them 5 stars. It is just too damn hot in the dining room. Saturday was 85 and sticky out, and it was the same conditions at my table. Yours arms stick to the table, your water glass sweats onto your lap (making trips to and from the bathroom look like you're having bladder control problems), and you're given huge plates that have just been in a salamander and throw off a lot of heat.

        The other minor quibble is on both visits, drinks that we didn't order were on our bill. In both cases they were quickly removed, but had they not been noticed, that's a good $20 difference.

        1. re: semanticantics

          I have been to travail several times since they opened - those guys are going to be rather detrimental to my cooking skills. Used to be it was quicker to just cook at decent meal myself than drive downtown but then they had to open just a few blocks from my house..........

          Sunday dinner - for my wife and myself

          Amuse bouche - tomato water with tomato dust, mozzarella and baby basil - clean refreshing yet nicely salty.
          Tuna belly - with pickled daikon - very nice
          Seared Tuna - roasted onions, semi-dried olives and something I forgot - nice Mediterranean flavors
          Agnelotti - outstanding as always
          Steak & Corn - baby and fresh corn with a perfectly cooked sirloin
          Fried chicken - sous vide breast and dark meat then battered and fried, with green beans and grilled watermelon - my wife was still raving about that dish hours later.

          We also received a piece of roasted tuna collar from the staff meal - it tasted exactly like some southern Italian fishermen would cook it. just great.

          I love the unpretentious atmosphere, the interaction with the guys actually cooking, the playful yet serious approach to their food. I have had a couple of dishes that weren't quite up my alley but that's all personal preferences rather than conceptual or execution errors.

          Overall I am very happy to have them in my neighborhood and hope they'll stick around for a long time.

          1. re: semanticantics

            The heat thing should be fixed this week according to their Facebook page.

            1. re: frittering_away

              They had a problem with their Air Conditioning that should be resolved.

              Also, starting this weekend, they are closed on Sundays, but will be open on Mondays.

        2. Travail's FB page mentions four new dishes:

          Chantrelle Agnolotti
          Pork Belly
          Steak (I believe with tater tots, there is a picture of this dish)

          And a new 10-course tasting menu, apparently intended for 2 diners, for $60.

          3 Replies
          1. re: semanticantics

            Three of us went last night. Food was incredible. We had the Chantrelle Agnolotti, Pork Belly,
            Steak (blue cheese tator tot), Fried Chicken, Figlets, Fries and Tomato Salad. And the dessert board. It was our second visit and we walked away so impressed with the food and the service. I also loved the fact that their windowbox had herbs and cabbage growing in it. I would consider moving to Robbinsdale just to eat here more frequently.

            1. re: semanticantics

              A follow up post indicates the Tasting Menu is chef's choice. I called around noon and spoke to a female that indicated they could do vegetarian for me.

              1. re: semanticantics

                They mentioned on Facebook that vegetarian won't be on the board but would be 4-6 courses for $30.

                We live in Robbinsdale, and are so glad to have them here. Be sure to pick up some bratwurst (or a yard sausage) at Hackenmueller's across the street. They're amazing.

            2. Visited again last night. I ordered the Chanterelle Agnollotti and the Tofu. The Tofu this time was a deconstructed Banh Mi with soft scrambled egg and house made kim chee. It was really, really good, and more substantial than it appears. The pasta was also good, but again, doesn't exactly scream the ingredient, but they are creamy pillows of yummy pasta.

              I also ended up eating the Zucchini Fazoletti, brought to our table due to "kitchen error". That was also a tasty dish. Unfortunately, I was left too full for dessert.

              This is now one of my favorite spots. I look for excuses to drive the 20 minutes just to see the weeks take on an ingredient / dish.

              1. I've recently made my 4th and 5th visits to Travail, last Thursday with mom for lunch and last night with my two friends that are local to Robbinsdale. Between the two trips there were several new items, last night the agnolotti changed from turnip to sweet corn, there was rabbit (4 ways), fig soup, and maybe a couple more. The "dessert buffet", as it's being called now, was completely different than last Thursday. Both times were it was awesome, and at $9, an incredible value (for an amuse shooter, house made ice cream, house made cookie platter, doughnuts, and funnel cake).

                This is my favorite spot right now. The food is constantly changing, the staff is super nice, and they are basically hanging out, showing off, and having fun, it hardly seems like work to them.

                4 Replies
                1. re: semanticantics

                  I think I'm going to make my first visit tonight. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the old V-44 gang.

                  1. re: BigE

                    Save room for dessert.

                    My friends liked their rabbit and pork belly. The Italian sausage pate melt is probably the most substantial thing on the menu (also been liked by friends). I've had the agnolotti three different ways (pea, chanterelle and corn) and liked it every time. The tomato and melon salad is really nice. OH, the Blue Cheese Tater Tots are awesome (had them last night), and they come with a honey sriracha sauce that is drinkable-good.

                    I can't recall a dud so this place.

                    If you check their FB page, I uploaded a video of them doing a fancy presentation for dessert.

                    1. re: semanticantics

                      I finally made it last night. I took a seat at the lower bar right at the kitchen. The place was pretty rockin', but I was the only one at that spot for the length of my stay.

                      They were out of rabbit, but I did get a spoonful of rabbit rillette. That was outstanding.

                      I started out with the blue cheese tots. Good lord. To say they were the best tots I've ever had would be an understatement. Chef Mike explained them as a molten mass of blue cheese goodness. Nice, light, crisp exterior with a perfectly smooth blue cheese interior. I could eat those things by the joke.

                      Second course was pork belly. Two little seared pieces of belly served with sweet potato puree, sweet potato chips, sauteed apples and a roasted (?) shallot. The belly was pretty straight forward, nothing spectacular about it, to be fair. The sweet potato puree was divine. Combining it (or the apple) with the pork belly made the whole dish better.

                      To finish, I had the italian sausage pate melt. They make the sausage in a loaf pan, slice it and top with house made mozz, pickles and braised kohlrabi in an aioli. Served with their outstanding fries, this was another winner. Having already eaten two apps, I happily took home part of my sandwich.

                      The experience was as good as I could have hoped for. These guys are still doing some of the best and most creative work in town. The atmosphere is just like it was at V-44. This will become a regular stop for me.

                  2. re: semanticantics

                    We live walking distance, so we've also been a few times. You're absolutely right about them hanging out, showing off, and having fun. When they first announced they were doing this, Dara made a blog post where she described it as a "molecular gastronomy man-cave." She nailed it before they even opened.

                    The day they got the liquid Nitrogen, the crew was just giddy. James couldn't contain his excitement when he said, "Dude! We made f***ing Dippin' Dots!" A few minutes later, a singing telegram arrived to sing happy birthday to a surprise party, and EVERYTHING came to a stop while the entire place sang happy birthday.