Friday, October 19, 2012

Day 7: Tchoup Chop! Bam!


After recovering, we headed back to Universal Studios to explore the rest of the park, which didn’t take long. Out of all the rides we anticipated, nothing compared to the new Despicable Me ride. Between the adorable girls and the hilarious minions, even the wait to get into the lab room and the lab room itself was absolutely fun and enjoyable! So memorable that to get a giggle, we randomly scream, “Bananas? Bannnnneeeehs!” Haha! Love those little yellow guys! Anyways…

After dealing with my groovy non-sense as I boogied to “Boogie Fever” with the minions during the Despicable Me “parade”, we headed back to relax and wait for our dinner reservations at Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop which was located at the Royal Pacific Resort. According to their menu, they offered a self-proclaim vegan tofu dish, which I was shocked to find and excited to try!

If there is anything I loved most about the Hard Rock Hotel, it was the pathways that led to the park, Citywalk and the other hotels on site. The pathways seemed to have been placed in the midst of a flourishing, lush wonderland. Between the colorful, fragrant flowers and the beautiful butterfly garden, I was in paradise! I didn’t have one issue walking to the hotel or the parks every day because the walk was so quiet and so peaceful. It felt like an escape…

We arrived at the Royal Pacific Resort and what do you know; more lush greens, waterfalls and beach-like areas! Why didn’t we stay here? After wondering around mindlessly trying to find the restaurant located at the back, far end of the hotel, we finally got to sit down and relax. We both fell in love with the way the restaurant was beautifully decorated with colors of the sunset, the ocean and other capturing Hawaiian inspired colors. The atmosphere was relaxing and romantic. 
Our waiter, Aaron, arrived and we ordered drinks and an appetizer to start off. I wasn’t sure if there was a vegan appetizer available and I didn’t care too much either (I think I was getting tired of eating LOL), so I kind of brushed off the idea until my waiter asked what I wanted. I mentioned I was vegan and he proceeded to tell me about the vegan options which included Miso Soup, a salad, and the Hot-Iron Seared In-Shell Edamame , which he highly recommended. All I could think about was the normal steamed beans with sea salt you get at any restaurant, which I knew I could easily make at home for cheap! But between Tim pushing me to get them and the waiter’s recommendation, I though eh what the heck, why not. 

AND OH MY GOSH am I glad I did! SERIOUSLY! These were the best freakin’ edamame beans I have ever had in my entire life! No BS! The texture was meaty with a flavor profile that was smoky, toasty, sweet, salty and slightly spicy. I couldn’t help but “mmm” through every bite and inconspicuously lick from my fingers the spices that coated each bean. Tim fell in love with them too and shared in my moment of pure food heaven. After a while, I did smack his fingers away in order to preserve the last couple of bites that I had. I knew I wasn’t going to get this again until my next return! 

 


Reminiscing about the beans that were sadly gone, my Cilantro-Cashew Pesto Marinated Tofu on top of a Crispy Rice Cake and Mixed Vegetable with Citrus Soy arrived. The veggies were steamed and very lightly salted and the tofu gently baked. Both were pretty bland in flavor, but at the same time, it was nice to cleanse my palate and enjoy the true flavors of the veggies and tofu without all the salty spices and sauces. I guess… I had completely forgot about the cake until I noticed it sitting underneath my pile of veggies and tofu. At one bite I realized while everything was bland; the rice cake had soaked up all the Citrus Soy Sauce!  The rice cake was full of flavor and had that addicting crunchy and chewy texture that I oh so love in my food. After discovering my flavor source, every bite was a whole lot better! 

 
And for dessert…yeah I never leave dessert, especially not when coconut is involved! Our waiter, Aaron, suggested a trio of sorbets, which you’d think I would be sick of by now, but when he mentioned mango and coconut flavors, I was in! The mango was good and typical, the blood orange very unique, but the coconut!? Yep another winner! It was creamy, coconutty and oh so delicious! I was seriously tempted to get another round with just coconut, but I behaved and ended my meal on a really good note.

While the main dish wasn’t “BAM!” great, I would definitely return to Tchoup Chop for another meal. Between the peaceful, romantic atmosphere, the great service (Aaron had a great personality and LOVED his job which made his service so great!), and the addicting edamame beans and coconut sorbet, Tchoup Chop is definitely returnable. Next time I want a bigger bowl of edamame! Like triple the size!