A few months ago I went to the Rookery bar in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. It’s in the back of a building that also houses Travail Kitchen & Amusements, a chef-driven restaurant known for its, well, amusing takes on food in presentation, taste and flavor.
I often use going to the bar of a restaurant as a way to check out either how vegetarian-friendly a place is or if its worth my time and money. I was surprised and eager to learn that Travail can accommodate a number of dietary restrictions, including both vegetarian and vegan meals. I was told that the tasting menu is usually 15 to 20 plates, and I might have to sit a few out that that can’t be made vegetarian. That didn’t deter me and I decided right then and there that’s what I wanted to do for my birthday earlier this month, and Aaron made reservations and got tickets for our seating.
We were seated at the end of a table-height bar, which I thought was kind of an afterthought seat at first, but I’ve decided is probably a really good view in the action compared to other seats. We were put on the end (tables are family style seating) probably to keep track of the vegetarians. I couldn’t confirm visually that the first plate was vegetarian so I asked. I felt bad doubting they didn’t have their stuff in order, but you just have to be sure! They did and I was quickly put at ease that I would be taken care of.
The courses were incredible, every one of them. And I could, in fact, have every one that night, so that made me excited and feel great on my birthday. Every dish was a wonderful sensory journey for taste, smell and sight, and sometimes sound and touch. It was incredible, interactive, entertaining and great to watch each dish be prepared, presented and explained.
Our meal included 18 courses; we got a photocopy of the handwritten menu for the day at the end of the meal. The courses ranged from three different soups, pasta, a course where we walked through the kitchen to different stations and were explained what different foods were, a point where we shoot a raw egg (this was the most difficult part but they assured us it was OK and they have to convince a lot of people) and four—yes, four—desserts, including root beer float pop rocks. Needless to say, I was full and happy when I left. And don’t get me started on that whiskey drink I had. It might not be for a while, be I would love to go back and experience it all again, especially during a different season.
Another wonderful note is as we were leaving the person at the host stand (but not the host, maybe the manager?) stopped us and asked how the vegetarian meal was, if we would offer suggestions or come back, that type of thing. It was great to know that he cared and wanted to make sure we were satisfied.