Travail's young chefs launch spirited gastro-workshop

Taste a balloon made of mozzarella, or house-made tofu

Travail's charcuterie plate is among the best in the metro, notable for its hearty generosity. The always-changing selection might feature duck liver mousse, an "adult" bologna with the tang of foie gras, or a slab of headcheese that's had its edges crisped on the griddle. And it's a reminder of Travail's ability to run an efficient kitchen, not letting anything go to waste, right down to the pig skull leftover from the headcheese, which doubles as window décor.

Travail's fluid menu means there will always be fresh flavors, but also that some dishes could benefit from another iteration. Occasionally a plate feels like it was conceived out of a refrigerator cleaning. A dish of sous vide octopus with prosciutto, melon, preserved lemon, and black olive, for example, would have likely improved with more judicious editing.

But the majority of the dishes I tried hit the mark of being both interesting and accessible: the perfect gnocchi paired with fatty pork belly, the springy pasta sheet covered in delicate summer vegetables, or those tasty little figlets, which are bites of dried fig, pancetta, and blue cheese that are reminiscent of bacon-wrapped dates.

Italian sausage melt
Emily Utne
Italian sausage melt
The big finish: Chef Geoff Hausmann with Travail's chocolate "Fire and Ice" dessert
Emily Utne
The big finish: Chef Geoff Hausmann with Travail's chocolate "Fire and Ice" dessert

Location Info

Map

Travail Kitchen and Amusements

4124 W. Broadway
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Robbinsdale

Details

Travail Kitchen and Amusements
4154 West Broadway Ave., Robbinsdale
763.535.1131 (No Reservations)
appetizers $4-$14; entrees $7-$13

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The most surprising thing about Travail's gourmet plates is that they hardly cost more than the commodity, food-service fare of most greasy spoons and dive bars. The multi-course dessert tasting might be the best example of such value. The seemingly endless parade of sweets appears to be modeled on some sort of promotion where you pay for the ingredients and get the labor free.

For $9, my friends and I feasted on homemade freezer pops made with fresh melon and strawberry, and soup-spoon scoops of frozen limeade foam that dissolved instantly on the tongue and left an odd sting. We then sampled doughnut holes in various flavors along with a trio of ice creams, one of which was frozen into beads inspired by Dippin' Dots. Then came another State Fair riff, a caramel apple fritter, followed by the grand finale. Brown told us it was called "Fire and Ice," as he toasted a swipe of Italian meringue with a construction-grade torch and then poured liquid nitrogen over chocolate mousse with dark chocolate crème anglaise. The dish may have been a little hokey, sure, but we ate it up, both literally and figuratively.

Brown and Winberg, who are 26 and 32, respectively, may not have attracted as much attention as other young chefs in town, but their passionate populism might eventually have a larger impact. In just a few short weeks, they've already managed to win over suburban foodies, beanbag-tossing beer drinkers, the elderly neighborhood lunch crowd—and this critic.

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