Emeril’s Tchoup Chop has made some changes, in personnel, equipment and menu. The restaurant, at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando, has added a robata grill, a traditional Japanese grill that sears foods at 1000 degrees. Dragonfly, the Japanese and sushi bar on Restaurant Row, is the only other area restaurant with a robata grill.
Speaking of sushi, Tchoup Chop has also added a sushi bar. And overseeing all of this is a new chef de cuisine, Ryan Vargas (you didn’t think Lagasse was going to be back there cooking, did you?). Vargas took over the kitchen in October. He is a native of Hawaii, which should help with the restaurant’s Hawaiian/Japanese/Polynesian/Pacific Rim flavor. The name of the restaurant, as you may know, comes from the location of Lagasse’s popular New Orleans restaurant, on Tchoupitoulas Street in the Warehouse District (where I had a fabulous meal just this past September). Tchoup is pronounced chop, so the name of the restaurant is Chop Chop, or Tchoup Tchoup, if you prefer.
The previous, chef de cuisine, Greg Richie, left the restaurant in April of last year, but even then many of the menu and equipment changes were already planned. As I reported earlier, Richie will be heading the kitchen at the still-unnamed restaurant planned for the former HUE Restaurant space in downtown Orlando’s Thornton Park.
Along with a new chef de cuisine, Tchoup Chop has named Andy Vaughn as general manager. Vaughn worked his way up through the ranks of Emeri’s Orlando at CityWalk, from back waiter to front waiter and then as the restaurant’s sommelier.
Among the new menu items are chimi-spiced ahi mahi over coconut–spinach luau risotto with lomi lomi tomatoes; hibachi skirt steak with Okinawa smashed potatoes, wild mushroom “poke” and Asian chimichurri; and Hawaiian malasadas with lilikoi and haupia custards. The robata grill features Japanese eggplant, shrimp and Chinese sausage, pork belly tocino and cauliflower with curry mayonnaise.
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, which opened in 2003, serves lunch and dinner daily.