Tchoup Chop - The Good, The Bad, The Cold, The Hot. A Review

Discussion in 'Universal Orlando Resorts & Hotels' started by Dave in the Frozen North, Feb 19, 2003.

  1. Dave in the Frozen North

    Dave in the Frozen North <a href="

    Aug 28, 1999
    Tchoup Chop - A Family of Four Canucks pays a visit to a Lovely Restaurant for Icy Winds, A Great Menu, but Cold Food.

    We just returned from our four day stay at Portofino, which included a visit to Tchoup Chop at RPH. Thought I would provide my amateur review and comments. My wife Kathy and my daughters Kaitlin and Carly made the trip over to RPR on February 13th.

    First, the restaurant itself is awesome (as is the entire Royal Pacific Resort). Contained within one large, cavernous room, the setting is gorgeous. Rising three stories, the restaurant is contained within one large room. All of the walls and pillars curve gently outward, into the room, giving a cool, soft elegance and serenity to the room. The open kitchen stretches along the back wall of the restaurant as you enter. A bar area extends along the left side of the room In the center is an amazing rectangular tiled pool with these nifty metal lily pads and frogs. The water spills over the pool and down the sides. Seating is arrayed around the pool in all areas of the room. The room is a bit noisy, due to the size and height.

    The water theme is continued along the huge granite wall that rises above the opening to the kitchen. Water cascades down the wall along the entire length and is collected in a tiled area above the opening. Cool stuff! The “pillars” interspersed around the room create these towering niches which run the entire height of the room. Each of these inset areas are tiled in an array of aquamarine, blue, turquoise tiles and softly lit. In front of each of these tiled sections, plain bamboo tree trunks twist and curve upwards. When viewed as a whole, you have a sense that you are in the center of a tropical grotto with the colors of the south pacific seas beyond Each of the curved pillars are covered in a soft woven bamboo fabric. Black grilled panels also are set at intervals around the room and backlit with deep soft orange light. The total effect is quite stunning.

    The floors are also a lovely warm natural stained bamboo. The contemporary polynesian/asian theme is carried up to the ceiling. The full expanse of the ceiling is covered in this amazing black grill work. Behind and above this grill is this same wash of soft deep orange light. The combined design is very striking. There are also four intricate, impressive chandeliers crafted in orange/yellow glass(?) flowers that tower over the room.

    Tables and booths are a mixture of warm woods and upholstery. The booths have these really cool rolled cushions running along the back which continue the asian (japanese?) theme. They were also very comfortable and cozy (once we were tucked away in the corner away from the door!) The exterior landscaping the gardens and the general area completes the atmosphere and ambiance of this beautiful room.

    Because of the impressive interior design, dining at Tchoup Chop is an experience itself simply because of the atmosphere and setting. The design team responsible for this beautiful interior space deserve kudos and applause.

    With one significant flaw requiring correction……someone forgot to consider the placement of the two large double doors front and center in direct line with a number of tables and two booths in particular. On the evening we visited in February, as temperatures dropped to their usual cool levels, the interior warmth near the front entrance was repeatedly and harshly interrupted by icy cold blasts each time the left door was opened. And guess who was seated in direct line of such blasts in the booth front and center at the front door?

    After the staff “team” introduced themselves, and we ordered wine and drinks, the unpleasant blasting commenced. Within 10 minutes we were frozen. I asked our server if perhaps the left door could perhaps be fixed shut to prevent the incoming arctic blasts (the wind blasts were not directed into the room when the right door was opened). I joked that although we were Canadian, we weren’t dressed for the north winds and I had left my ski-doo suit at home.

    After another ten minutes passed, our candle was actually blown out, our hands were tucked under the napkins for warmth, and my wife’s lips were turning blue. At that point I insisted that we be moved to another table and we were accommodated immediately.

    We were a little disappointed that the Maitre d’ (whose snotty attitude and rude impersonal tone, was the lone exception to an otherwise terrific restaurant staff) gave us no warning. We also overheard him curtly dismissing our request to do something about the problem when our server told him this was a problem for us. Disappointment evolved to extreme anger when after being told of the problem this charming fellow proceeded to hold the door open for almost a full minute while he had a little chat with a departing guest. (This was about the time that my daughter’s goosebumps were themselves having goosebumps and my wife’s hair was subjected to an impromptu cold air restyling. She was not amused.)

    The moral of the story – depending on the weather, avoid the booths (and table) immediately facing the front door like the plague! This is a problem that will have to be fixed. If they try to seat you facing the door… away.

    To the food. The menu is wonderful. The list of starters and main courses is lengthy, varied and offers some amazing creations at very reasonable prices (especially when compared with the price list at the Italian restaurants at PBH). The emphasis is on asian, south pacific flavours. A lot of fish and seafood. A clay pot is featured each day. There were no less than three fish specials that evening (and I had a hard time choosing one). One section of the menu includes a list of “chinese” dishes of rices, chow meins, vegetables, in both small and large bowl sizes so tables or individuals can put together a varied selection. I tasted from each of the three of the bowls selected by Carly and they were great.

    The flavours, and creations in the menu make a trip to Tchop Chops a must if you are into fine casual dining with a flair. I had steamed dumplings as a starter and my daughters had pot stickers. I could have ordered seconds. My whole breaded trout was amazing. The desserts were excellent.

    BUT – and there is a big but – the kitchen was WAY off that evening. It was actually startling how a kitchen of this caliber could get things so wrong. There were some early warnings. As we entered, we immediately noticed a film crew in the kitchen interviewing the chef. It struck me as odd that a film crew would be in the kitchen smack dab in he middle of the evening dinner rush on a busy Thursday evening. After the fact, it was our guess is that this partly explained the problems with the food temperatures that evening.

    Our appetizers were fine. When my entrée arrived, the fish and beans were piping hot. The basil mashed red potatoes were strangely tepid to cold. Obviously part of the entrée had been plated too early. My wife’s sampler plate was worse - it ranged from tepid to stone cold and she was quite disappointed. (She pointed out that the frigid cool down procedures at the start of the meal had hardly left her in the best of moods to begin with and now eating a cold entrée was the “icing” (yikes) on the entree, so to speak.) My youngest daughter’s chinese food was piping hot. My eldest daughters plate was unfortunately also a “mixed bag” of warm to cool temperatures instead of nice and hot.

    Although we perhaps should have, we did not complain about the problem. After the fiasco of the front door wind tunnel, the changing of tables and the delays in eating, it would have been unpleasant to then begin complaining about the food being cold. (I’m not sure we would have had much credibility by that point.) Even so, two of the servers actually apologized for the delays for the food coming from the kitchen. It was a shame really. The food itself was, I thought, wonderful, but obviously fell far short of the mark because it was “temperature deficient”.

    The desserts were excellent. Temperature problems were gone in this department. Kathy and I had the pineapple upside down cake with a ginger ice cream. My taste buds were happy campers. My daughters had the banana cheesecake. They gave it big thumbs up. BUT (and again another but), when we ordered a couple of Latte’s they arrived…..luke warm. And were cold before we finished.

    The wait staff were excellent. We were told when they introduced themselves that the staff works as a team at Tchoup Chop. Despite the backups and mismanagement in plating at the kitchen, our servers were friendly, fast, and very attentive.

    I would make the optimistic assumption that we happened to be there on the wrong night, and that most nights the kitchen delivers their amazing menu in a more organized fashion and dishes are executed at the RIGHT temperature. I want to go back. and try it again. (My wife however will require some major convincing as she was less tolerant of the entire episode because of what happened). Tchoup Chop really has a lot of potential and I was very impressed but obviously disappointed at the same time. I’d be interested in hearing from any other subsequent amateur reviewers who might confirm that we simply had the bad luck to be there on an “off” night.

    Dave in the Frozen North.

    (P.S. Ironically, when we reserved our table a month before arriving, we were told that the dress code required men to wear long sleeves. This struck me as rather odd, but I complied. As my wife and daughters sat freezing in their lovely sleeveless dresses that evening I smirked that I was the warmest of the bunch. The rationale for this request escapes me. Dinner jackets are not required. Why require long sleeves? Casual and dressy resort wear was the attire of choice and I would think that the requirement for long sleeves for men is a little unnecessary. “Casual dressy resort wear and no shorts” would be the more logical directive.)
  2. No11's Mom

    No11's Mom DIS Veteran

    Dec 26, 2000
    Dave -

    Can I ask how much you paid for dinner? I really want to try this restuarant when we are there this December, but my DH and DS are such picky eaters and have such boring palates. They basically just want to eat meat and shun almost all vegetables. I'm afraid that we will have to spend a fortune and everything will be too exotic for their tastes.

    Thanks for your review.
  3. Disney Debbie

    Disney Debbie <font color=deeppink>Survivor<br><font color=blue>

    Mar 25, 2000
    Dave - As usual, you make me feel as if I was there! Thanks for the balanced review. We're going in May so I'll report then! When I made our reservations they told me the dress code was "resort casual" - nothing about long sleeves! My DH won't even pack a long sleeve shirt in May - he rarely wears them in February!
  4. JessicaR

    JessicaR <font color=blue>DIS Veteran<br><font color=green>

    Sep 26, 2000

    I dont think I have had the pleasure of reading any of your other posts but after reading this one you can bet I will read the rest!

    I enjoyed the details of this restaurant so much. It sounds beautiful. I'm sorry you had such an up and down experience. I hope as you said it was just an off night!

    Do you happen to know if they offer childrens meals?

    Thanks for posting!
  5. webray

    webray Love the wineauxs!

    Apr 20, 2000
    We have been to Tchoup Choup twice, and we were told the dress was resort casual.

    We did notice in the evening...more people were dressed up...and the dress code is not enforced as much for lunch. Just no tank tops or ripped clothing at lunch time will be allowed.

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