Emeril Lagasse is known for his Cajun cuisine, but when it came time to open his second restaurant in Orlando, he looked to the South Pacific for inspiration.
The result is Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, one of the signature restaurants at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.
The chef recently revamped the lunch menu, and we were invited to come check it out.
Normally, Tchoup Chop is easily reached from either the boat dock where the Universal Orlando water taxi lands, or from the resort’s convention center parking lot. Unfortunately, with the construction going on at the new neighboring Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, the convention lot wasn’t available. That meant a long walk from the resort’s main self-parking lot.
But hey, I looked at the walk as I was compensating for all the food I was about to eat.
We got there around noon, shortly after they opened for lunch, and were quickly seated.
One thing I’ve always liked about Tchoup Chop is the serene fung shui decor, but I noticed some changes since my last visit a few years ago. The beautiful focal point pond was still there in the center of the room, but the walls now had a bamboo covering to them. The place felt more elegant with all of the subtle touches.
However, we were there for the food, and it did not disappoint.
We were given a bowl of shrimp chips with dipping sauce, but since I’m allergic to seafood, they also fried up some wontons and served them with a sweet chili sauce.
If fact, that’s one thing I really liked about Tchoup Chop – they were very accomodating for allergies, and quick to suggest substitutions. I also appreciated they knew the menu well enough to catch if something I may have ordered had fish sauce in it (which can also set off my allergy).
Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t try the signature Crispy Kalua Chicken Egg Rolls, since they have fish sauce in them. My guest, however, said they were delicious and a must try when dining at Tchoup Chop.
Don’t feel bad for me, though. Since I couldn’t try any of the lunch appetizers due to allergies, they made me the Kiawe-Smoked Pork Ribs from the dinner menu. They were delicious. Sticky but full of flavor and moist, not dried out. This is definitely worth sharing with friends.
We also tried the Iron Skillet Seared Edamame from the dinner menu, which was finished with sea salt, sesame seeds, and Togarashi, which gave it a subtle kick.
For my entree, I kept with the pork theme and ordered the Kalua Pork Sandwich, featuring pulled pork tossed in a pineapple hoisin BBQ sauce and topped with onion crisps and Asian slaw. As you can see from the photo above, there were a lot of onion crisps, which is good, because I love those things.
The taste was fabulous – sweet and spicy melding together beautifully, with a bit of a tang from the pineapple. However, it’s a very wet sandwich, from all of the sauce, and about half-way through, I couldn’t eat any more because the bread underneath had gotten too soggy. It was definitely more of a texture preference than anything wrong with the sandwich.
I did mention it to the manager, who said they would look into ways to combat that for future orders of the dish.
My guest opted for the Korean BBQ Skirt Soft Tacos (also available with Mahi Mahi instead of beef). The three tacos featured tender steak topped with tomatoes, guacamole, pineapple-napa slaw, and a sweet soy-kim chee mayo. She really enjoyed her tacos…so much that I didn’t even get a bite.
Both dishes were also accompanied by fries, but not your normal fries. Tchoup Chop serves a mixture of regular and sweet potato fries, which was a nice change from the normal mound of fries (though let’s be honest…I’m like Samwise from Lord of the Rings when it comes to potatoes – I think they’re all good).
We decided to forego anything from the full bar, instead opting to try out the lunch menu’s “mocktails.”
Being the adventurous one, I tried the Ramune, a carbonated Japanese soft drink. It’s a bit of a presentation as you’re given a piece of plastic to pop the top of the bottle open. The beverage itself is very sugary sweet.
We also tried the Big Kahuna (orange and pineapple juices, almond syrup, and a splash of ginger ale), and the Hawaiian Watermelon (pineapple juice, watermelon syrup, and fresh lime juice, topped off with Sprite), which paired well with the pork dishes.
We finished with a sampler of their popular desserts. Honestly, I would come here to eat just for these dishes.
We first started with the homemade coconut ice cream garnished with candied lime. Of course I had to make a “you put the lime in the coconut” joke. It was a nice mixture of sweet and tart.
Next up were the Sweet Dumplings, filled with sweetened cream cheese, fried, and served with a tropical fruit dipping sauce. I really liked these. They were not too sweet or greasy.
Finally we had a slice of Chef Emeril’s Signature Banana Cream Pie. He has this on the menu of every one of his restaurants and it only took one bite to see why. This pie has not one, but three layers of fresh bananas interspersed with layers of vanilla custard. I was told a full pie has around 3 pounds of bananas.
Forget the calories…this pie is worth the splurge for banana lovers.
If you don’t have time to linger at lunch, you might want to save Tchoup Chop for a day that you can. The food is wonderful and you’ll want to enjoy several of the courses, especially dessert. Plus the South Pacific atmosphere invites a relaxed dining experience, not one where you’re rushed for time.
Prices on the lunch menu are wallet-friendly, with most dishes $14 or less. For those who are not so adventureous in your dining group, there are some salads, as well as a burger option, and there is a Children’s Menu. As I mentioned above, they are also very good at working around food allergies.
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop is located at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. Hours of operation are 11:30am to 2:30pm for lunch, at which time they hard close. They reopen at 5pm for dinner, with a happy hour from 5-8pm. Closing is at 10pm.
For menus, reservations, or more information, visit emerilsrestaurants.com/emerils-tchoup-chop.
[Disclaimer: We were hosted for lunch by Emeril’s Tchoup Chop for purposes of review. As always, my opinions are honest and my own.]
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