Emeril's Tchoup Chop, the pseudo Hawaiian restaurant developed by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, will close Dec. 31. The restaurant, which opened in 2003, is in the Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.
Staff members were informed of the impending closing Thursday evening.
Tchoup Chop, which got its name from Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans and which Lagasse had first intended to be a steakhouse in that city, had a rocky start. Despite the celebrity of its owner and a stunning design by the Rockwell Group of New York, the restaurant's cuisine at first seemed forced and lacked focus. Also, few people who dined there knew what to expect of Hawaiian cuisine. Most of the initial food, noted in my first review of Tchoup Chop in March of 2003, was over salted.
A re-review in July of 2005 did not find things had improved.
Eventually, however, Greg Richie, currently chef/partner at Soco in Thornton Park, was hired away from Roy's on Sand Lake Road. Roy's, of course, originated in Hawaii and Richie worked in the islands under founder Roy Yamaguchi. He brought more focus to the menu and Tchoup Chop has generally gotten good reviews since then.
But the location is an odd one, located around the back at the ballroom entrance to the resort rather than at the front of the hotel. Lagasse's first restaurant in the area, Emeril's Orlando, at Universal CityWalk, has higher visibility. And with it being essentially a second location of the original Emeril's in New Orleans, the stylized Louisiana food is more readily embraced. Still, sales are also flat at Emeril's Orlando, which reportedly pays Universal $130,000 per month in rent.
By the way, the Rockwell Group also designed Cirque du Soleil's theater at Walt Disney World, which will also close its La Nouba show on Dec. 31. So, coincidence.
A manager at the restaurant Friday afternoon confirmed that it will close but could not give details. Calls to other restaurant officials were not immediately returned.
More information will be added as it is learned.