After months of building their own building, the Kickstarter wunderkinds launched the new and improved Travail Kitchen & Amusements, with the addition of a chef's table, a cocktail bar, and a new area called The Rookery.
It really is like a conjoined twin. The Rookery is in the same crafty-chic space and attached to Travail at the bar. They each have their own brains (kitchens and cooks are seperate) but share a lot of personality traits.
In essence, The Rookery is supposed to be the more casual, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants aler ego to the tasting-menu-focused Travail. There's a big communal table in the middle, bar seating along the kitchen, a high-top banquet along the wall and a football shaped half-booth. The music is loud and there's a flat screen on the wall. Chalkboard menus list what you'd think: one word description of dishes and a price. Food can be ordered seperately or as a tasting menu of the whole shebang for $75.
The menu at Rookery is different from Travail, but obviously follows the same form. We're talking small servings with constructed and focused ingredients. Any one of these plates could traverse the divide and play on the other menu. As you'd expect, there's a lot of fun in these dishes.
Duck rillete came in a waffle cone, almost like a duck salad with arugula and these little brined dwarf peaches that were more like olives than fruit. The cone's malty sweetness gave a great bite with the salty duck.
The leek 3-way with steamed leeks and leek power came with a little edible vial of leek oil that you broke open and poured over the dish. Foie gras comes in a wholly non-traditional form, a torchon is frozen and grated into frothy feather-like shavings which are piled on top of blueberries and frisee in a parfait that is a balance of butter, air, and bright fruity acidity.
The dish of of the night, that killed everyone at the table was the octopus sitting on the bottom of a bowl with soft little gnocchi, sturdy chorizo, and yellow peppers over which a red pepper broth was poured. The octopus was nearly matched to the gnocchi in delicate texture and the warming bite of the pepper broth and chorizo just brought it home. Further through the menu, agnolotti sat in a rich tomato butter, shrimp crackilin' rose architecturally among seabeans and Old Bay emulsion, and a small slab of beautifully pink ribeye lolled under rutabaga mash and mushroom foam.
The new cocktails are just as full of trickery and verve. The Ron Burgundy is this purpleish whiskey drink that comes with an added whiff of sweet tobaco smoke, the Jack Rabbit Slim is a tart and frothy almost shake-like drink, and the Pink Drink is more than just a pretty face with bubbly slap.
Of course the whole thing could have changed by now, so goes the roll of those kitchens. But if you can't commit to the full-on joyous slog of a tasting menu at Travail, you will be happy at a chair in The Rookery where I would easily put together a meal of the octopus, the pork plate, the brussels, and few cocktails and easily call it a good night.