27 Oct 19 Course Tasting Dinner at Travail Kitchen and Amusements
A sausage and gravy biscuit is assembled on the back of your hand, pop rocks are served that induce a stream of smoke out your nose, and a field trip is taken through the kitchen for a plate of steak and potatoes created one ingredient at a time at a number of stations: this isn’t your typical restaurant.
Travail Kitchen and Amusements takes fine dining and turns it on its head. With a progressive, ever changing and seasonal menu, every visit is sure to be an exciting and unpredictable adventure, especially with the view into the open kitchen. Each course is served and presented in a variety of entertaining ways, but make no mistake the food is no joke. The tasting menu ranges from 14-20 courses and each dish is delicious, creative, inventive and fresh; in other words, fine dining at its finest.
On the evening we visited, we were served 19 courses during our three hour visit–thankfully, the majority of dishes were only a few bites because we were completely stuffed by the end!
Before dinner, be sure to stop at the bar, The Rookery, in the back of the restaurant for a drink from their creative cocktail menu or full bar. We were advised to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to our reservation as late shows are not guaranteed a spot. You are seated at community tables that seat anywhere from 4-8 diners and the experience just wouldn’t be the same if people came in late. But, thankfully, the bar has plenty to keep you entertained while you wait! They even serve small individual dishes hailing from the same theme as the restaurant, so if you just want a smaller meal or little snacks, the bar alone can make for a great night out as well.
At the bar, I ordered a Ron Burgundy, which consisted of bourbon, cherry and smoke. It was served with a long pour of smoke over the top and a few poetic lines about Mr. Burgundy’s dog, Baxter, and his leather bound books.
Once it was time for our meal, we were seated at a table for 8 and got ready to dig in. Our first course started us off in a simple way and the evening just got crazier and crazier as it progressed. After the meal, we were given a list of everything on the tasting menu, and while I’m not going to share every detailed ingredient (because there are a lot!), here is an overview of the tasty morsels we consumed.
1st Course: We were presented with a spoon that held a small little pain au lait bread with a mushroom puree.
2nd Course: Kohlrabi soup, aka decompressed bean soup with the “soup” added at the table.
3rd Course: Mini pretzel with cheddar cheese sauce was up next.
4th Course: Seared salmon with roasted cauliflower, fried kale and white chocolate cauliflower puree with a few other flavors mixed in.
5th Course: Chicken schnitzel and mustard spaetzle served on a tiny spoon.
6th Course: Mussels on a baguette over a charmoula sauce.
7th Course: Shotski of lemon lime yozu Sprite with lime confit and cranberry.
8th Course: Smoked prime sirloin and whipped potatoes with a variety of garnishes assembled on a field trip through the kitchen, one ingredient at a time!
9th Course: Chicken liver mousse agnolotti with greens and rye sage crumble prepared table side.
10th Course: Buttermilk biscuit, breakfast sausage and sausage gravy assembled on the back of your hand!
11th Course: Pickled honeydew, chorizo, and peeled grape over lime yogurt panna cotta with flowers and other garnishes.
12th Course: Life of a chicken–starting on the left there was a sunny side egg with hollandaise, next was chicken galantine, then chicken consume, and finally, hen of the woods with orange butter and fried sage.
13th Course: Served in an egg shell, this dish looked like a raw egg, but it was actually their take on a gazpacho and consisted of orange bell pepper, tomato water and cucumber water.
14th Course: Root beer float pop rocks that make steam come out of your nose!
15th Course: Pork belly, apple salad, celery root, bourbon raisin and bourbon apple glaze.
16th Course: Chocolate cake, caramel and berry jam with vanilla buttercream that we had to eat with our hands!
17th Course: Kouign amann, maple syrup creme fraiche, chocolate, and blueberry on top of wild rice granola (one of my favorite courses!)
18th Course: A pick your own adventure course consisting of your choice of sweet: miso, brown butter or caramel.
19th Course: The last bite was served on our hand again, and it consisted of painalay bread filled with pear butter.
The entire experience was absolutely fantastic–it’s hard to choose, but my favorite course was the amazing 17th course dessert. While I enjoyed every dish, I have to admit I’m not a fan of pork belly, so that course was my least favorite. Micah, on the other hand, is a pretty picky eater, so this was an interesting experience for him! The menu definitely pushed his boundaries, but he ended up having a lot of fun and enjoyed many dishes he didn’t think he would. And, pushing your boundaries is precisely what an adventure is all about!
Travail is located in Robbinsdale, just a few miles from downtown Minneapolis. It is open Wednesday-Saturday and reservations must be made in advance. Walk-ins are available from time to time, but the restaurant fills up fast and seats sell out more often than not. To make reservations, head to their website and pick a date and time. Payment is due at the time of booking, almost like a concert (it is fantastic entertainment, after all!), and tickets are non-refundable. We really enjoyed paying in advance because it left us free to just enjoy the evening when we arrived. The only thing not included in your pre-payment is drinks, which you purchase at the restaurant. Prices are scaled and adjusted according to the reservation time and day, meaning Wednesday evening at 5:00 is cheaper than Saturday evening at 8:30–the cheapest option is $65 per person and goes up to $95 per person. Although it’s not exactly cheap, it’s an excellent deal for the quality of the food and caliber of the restaurant. I’ve heard that people will actually fly to Minneapolis just to experience this restaurant, so if that doesn’t speak volumes to the love for this restaurant, I don’t know what does!
Micah and I laughed throughout the whole meal–from the silly antics of the servers singing along with songs, to the bizarre presentation of some of the dishes, and the crazy combinations and food pairings, the entire evening was such a good time. I can say I’ll definitely return again in the future to see what is cooking at Travail Kitchen and Amusements!