Souvenir Tiki Mug at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando

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If you’ve guzzled enough butter beer at Universal Studios Orlando and want to mix things up with a tiki drink, you should check out Emeril’s Tchop Chop (pronounced “chop chop”) at the posh Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

You probably know Emeril Lagasse from his many Food Network appearances (“Bam!”) but he’s also got a slew of respected restaurants in New Orleans plus Las Vegas, Orlando and beyond. Emeril’s Orlando at CityWalk offers his signature upscale Cajun/Creole food, while Emeril’s Tchoup Chop presents Asian/Polynesian fusion fare.

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Rockwell Group in New York designed the techno-tropical decor with a lily pond in the center of the restaurant, chandeliers composed of small glass flowers and a colorful mosaic of giant blooms above the counter facing the open kitchen. It reminds me of a restaurant you’d find in Vegas casino.

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On the left side of the restaurant there’s a bar with about a dozen bar stools. A few tables are also crammed in on that side of the room divider but we were told they were for those with reservations. The place was booked pretty solid on the night of our visit.

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Lurking underneath the bar are several Balinese-style tikis, each carved in a slightly different style. One holds a fish while another carries a water jug and so on. (Notice the “E” carved on each.)

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One of these was the model for the restaurant’s custom Tiki Farm mug, which has “Emeril’s Tchoup Chop” emblazoned on the back. There have been a few different glazes (green, blue, brown) over the years and the tiki mug even used to have metal rings hanging from its ears. The mug is sold for $15, with no discount for ordering a beverage in it.

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Happy hour is offered every day from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. at the bar inside and at the outdoor “Tiki Bar.” (The weather was cold and rainy when we were there in February so the thatched hut bar was all shut up.) The deals include $4.50-$6 beers, $5 well cocktails and $6 house wines and homemade sangria. There’s also a discount on one featured specialty cocktail, The Painkiller ($10, normally $15), a cousin of the piña colada. I tend to make those at home so I opted for the 1944 Mai Tai Roa Ae ($15), made about as true to Trader Vic’s recipe as one can get. Other choices from the “Tiki Classics” section are the Fogcutter, Hurricane, Dark & Stormy and La Floridita (Hemingway Daiquiri.) (They’ve even put in the extra effort to include a little background information on each drink with the description.) On top of that, there are several original “Signature” cocktails that have some tropical flair.

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You’re free to order off the full menu at the bar, but we made a meal out of the happy hour “small bites.” I’d skip the robata shishito peppers ($4) since there’s not much bang for your buck, but we did enjoy the spicy salmon cucumber roll ($6).

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Those kalua chicken egg rolls ($5) were so good that we ordered another helping, and I still wasn’t able to snap a decent picture before we started demolishing them. The regular menu gets kind of pricey, but definitely has some dishes that sound tempting, like the “Duck Duck Goose” (kiawe smoked duck breast with foie gras gyoza, gooseberry “poha” jam and citrus mustard vinaigrette). Their new chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas is a Hawaii native and an alum of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, so he’s pretty legit.

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The theming of Loews Royal Pacific Resort takes inspiration from the “Golden Age of Travel,” so the vibe is luxurious and exotic but not really “tiki.” (Although the hotel does host a weekly luau and I did spot a tiki mask in Jake’s American Bar, which is worth a look.) I’d highly recommend taking a stroll down to Universal’s neighboring Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was all my mid-century modern dreams come true.

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
6300 Hollywood Wy.
Orlando, FL 32819
407-503-3340

Related Posts:
Reviews of Tiki Bars in Orlando
Dole Whip with Rum at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

The Best Things I’ve Eaten at Tiki Bars – Part 1

Pupu platters of crab Rangoon and spare ribs are staples on menus at tiki bars, but some places offer more unexpected fare like pizza, burgers and more.

I wanted to spotlight some of the best food I’ve encountered at tiki bars. My made-up rules are that the tiki bar still has to be open (alas, no Bahooka stuffed shrimp then). Also, it has to be a legit tiki bar, so I can’t include any of the awesome grub from A-Frame. Here’s the first installment of what I imagine will be an ongoing series. (Later I plan on doing an all-California edition.)

1. Biscayne Biscuits – Psycho Suzi’s, Minneapolis

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The gut-busting Biscayne Biscuits are my go-to brunch order at Psycho Suzi’s in Minneapolis. I describe them as the unholy (but amazing) offspring of eggs Benedict and biscuits and gravy. Two biscuits were topped with a sausage patty and poached egg, then covered with creamy housemade sausage gravy.

Psycho Suzi’s Review

2. Pulled Pork Nachos – Tambu Lounge, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Orlando

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The pulled pork nachos at Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are famous among parkgoers — and for good reason. House-made potato chips and seasoned fried wontons are heaped with coffee-rubbed pork plus cheese, tomatoes, onions, spicy mayo and pineapple salsa. (Technically I tried these at neighboring restaurant Capt. Cook’s where they’re also served.)

Tambu Lounge Review

3. Pizza – Tahiti Nui, Kauai

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Pizza in paradise is what’s in store at Tahiti Nui on Kauai. The toppings are flavorful, and the buttery crust puts it over the top. We loved the #3 Huli Huli Chicken with red onions and cilantro as well as #5 Da Hui with pineapple and kalua pork.

Tahiti Nui Review

4. Truffle Arancini – Mahiki, London

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Although the attitude at London’s posh tiki lounge Mahiki wasn’t to my taste, the truffle and wild mushroom arancini certainly were. Sadly, these delicious risotto balls don’t appear to be on the menu anymore.

Mahiki Review

5. Thai Fried Chicken – Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago

Pupus at Three Dots and a Dash

Three Dots and a Dash in Chciago offers several small plates, including crab Rangoon and egg rolls. However, I think the best thing on the menu is the Thai fried chicken in garlic-chili sauce (upper right).

Three Dots and a Dash Review

What are your favorite foods from tiki bars?

A-Frame Goes Hawaiian with Local Favorites & Tiki-Inspired Drinks

IMG_2237 Five years ago, chef Roy Choi of Kogi food truck fame transformed an old IHOP in Culver City into an Asian-influenced “urban picnic” dining spot called A-Frame (after its iconic shape, naturally). In February 2015, the restaurant fulfilled its architectural destiny by transitioning to a more Hawaiian-centric concept with tiki-esque drinks.

16793277049_6a892bce81_o_1 While it’s true that Roy Choi was chef of the old Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills back in the day, the real driving force for this was the new executive chef, Johnny Yoo, who wanted to serve up Hawaiian comfort food inspired by places like Side Street Inn in Honolulu. On A-Frame’s web site, Choi points out that the menu already had some aloha flavor to it, with the furikake kettle corn and baby back ribs. (Those are two of the few dishes kept on the menu since the switch.)

IMG_2241 The decor stayed essentially the same, with the addition of some vintage longboards above the bar and artist Eric Junker’s graffiti art of “Hawaiian-inspired alchemical symbols of abundance and gratitude.”

IMG_2244 There are some tiki amongst the decor, including a Big Kahuna tiki bottle opener from Smokin’ Tikis perched on the bar. Take a look in the merch display at the reservation stand and you’ll spot a few more tikis.

16793281649_12e9126b4e_o_2 Even if you sampled poi at a luau once and didn’t like it, don’t let that deter you from ordering the Hush Poippies ($9) to start. These crispy bites of taro and potato arrive piping hot to the table because the kitchen sends each dish out as soon as it’s ready. They’re served with a side of sweet chili sauce but are addictive enough on their own with the grated white cheddar and Parmesan.

IMG_2272 A-Frame produces its own house-made Spam, a noble endeavor that we had to support by getting the musubi (one piece for $5 or a trio for $12). The ume paste brings an interesting, tangy taste to this essential Hawaiian snack made with white rice and Spam wrapped in nori.

IMG_2288 Eight Legged Duck ($17) presents an intriguing pairing of seared foie gras and slices of baby octopus terrine, though we wish the portion had been a bit more generous. In the interest of not running up the bill too high, we’d skip this next time.

IMG_2294 - Version 2 My meat-and-potatoes man went for the Double Kimcheesburger ($14). He tends to have more traditional tastes but he was on board with the toppings of cucumber kimchi, bacon guava jam, sweet Maui onion and aged cheddar.

IMG_2298 Curry gravy and pickled pearl onions put a slightly different (but very welcome) spin on Loco Moco ($15), that Hawaiian staple of a hamburger patty with rice, gravy and a runny egg.

IMG_2302 Another carryover from A-Frame’s previous menu is the dessert Chu Don’t Know Mang ($10): pound cake churros with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream. We were blown away by these and can definitely see why it had to stick around.

IMG_2304 The cocktail list features 11 tiki-inspired tipples, priced at $12 each. The most traditional of the bunch is the Zombie Isle (Bourbon barrel rum, Hawaiian dark rum, lime, orange, apricot, absinthe). (Bonus points for serving it in a tiki mug.) I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the Pina Cholada (reposado tequila, coconut milk, orgeat, lime, pineapple, egg white). Normally I have no issues with tequila but here it turned me off. I’m still curious to try the other drinks, though — I’m sure there’s a favorite to be found. There’s also 24 oz. cans of Primo available plus several California craft beers on tap.

IMG_2240 Every night from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. and weekends from 10 p.m.-closing there’s Luau Hour, featuring deals on select dishes, $4 beers, $6 wine and $8 cocktails (Kona Old Fashioned, Guava Buck and a Big Island Gimlet with passionfruit). During weekend brunch, A-Frame pays tribute to its IHOP roots by offering all-you-can-eat pancakes ($15) in tropical variations like banana mac nut and lilikoi butter. (You can also add on unlimited Mimosas, Micheladas and Bloody Marys for $16.)

A-Frame
12565 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
310-398-7700

A-Frame on Urbanspoon