Photo: Joe / ShopHouse
The idea for ShopHouse, Chipotle’s Asian restaurant spinoff, came to CEO Steve Ellis while he was visiting Thailand and Singapore last year. It culminated in its first restaurant at Dupont Circle in Washington D.C.Expectations that it could be another huge, national hit has helped Chipotle shares surge.
ShopHouse’s typically serve the Asian version of food, and the restaurant draws on Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisines for its recipes.
For die-hard Chipotle fans thinking of making a trip to D.C. to try out the grub, we culled a few reviews from the 29 on Yelp. Some love it, some swear they’ll never go back, most thought it was too spicy.
I managed to snag golden tickets on Saturday and today (Monday) during the soft opening. I loved it both times, and I already noticed some improvements in terms of explaining items between these two visits.
I highly recommend the steak and, surprisingly, the chicken and pork meatballs. You get to choose between short lists of options in 6 categories: starch, protein, veggie, sauce, pickle, and topping. Those are my classifications, not theirs. Not sure how it'll suss out because they were still accepting lots of suggestions and discussing improvements while we were there. They were extremely responsive to requests for different sodas, notes about overcooked noodles, etc.
So today was a more successful combo, and I think your experience will totally depend on what you choose to combine. I got jasmine rice with steak, spicy charred corn, tamarind vinaigrette, pickled veggies, and toasted garlic. It was delicious. I heard lots of compliments about the green curry, but it's a little too coconut milky for me. Same with the red curry, which I had last time, but I really loved the heat in that one, so I might overcome my anti-coconut sentiments in that respect. None of my companions had a bahn-mi, so I can't speak to those, but they look really good.
The value is really high: about $8 for all that, with generous portions, and very fresh tasting ingredients. It seemed healthy and not disgustingly outsized, but I'm still super full an hour later. If you have any suggestions, make them. I'm sure they're reading.
I tried it today with a free lunch card they gave out. It is basically separately precooked stuff in a bowl with some sauce on it, and it wasn't all that great or special. It's the same concept of other places that do that (Noodles & Company comes to mind), except they use curry sauces. Example, cold rice noodles, grilled steak (and only a few small pieces at that) some grilled corn, some garnish slaw and some chopped nuts and some curry sauce. That's it and they charge $7.50 for that. If you like the concept of leftovers in a bowl, which is exactly what it tasted like... go for it.
Just had a very pleasant curry from the new Asian Chipotle: nicely cooked brown rice, yummy tofu, fresh Chinese eggplant and basil, cilantro, crispy garlic, and a side of truly (but not chokingly) spicy red sauce. I arrived at 1pm and moved through the restaurant really fast, especially considering that today was the hard opening.
Every single staff member was eager to explain the concept and respond to requests, from the guy who handed me a menu as soon as I came in to the lady in charge of scooping rice, who was determined to give me exactly how much I wanted (and I didn't even care). I don't think the Yelper below who described this place as 'leftovers in a bowl' really got the concept, which is an instant, fresh lunch for people who like Asian flavours. It succeeds at what it sets out to be. (And for the record, it tastes great.) There's still some room for improvement:
Nutrition facts were hard to come by. This seemed to be the one area where the staff was ignorant. I imagine a lot of people will be coming in here hoping to get a healthy meal. I asked the sauce guy which of the three options was the least caloric; he looked at me with confusion, pointed to the red sauce, and said 'this one's really spicy.' I said no no, that's great, I love spice, but which has the fewest calories? Again, nothing. So I said, which has the lowest fat? And he said 'I tell you what, I'll give you this red sauce on the side, OK?' Uh, OK. It was delicious! But probably not the least caloric.
There's a limit of one protein, one vegetable, and one garnish per bowl. Why not do what the Mexican Chipotle does and take the cap off the limit on veggies? I wanted green beans and broccoli with my eggplant. But overall, ShopHouse - good job!
Service is great. Food...not so great (I had the tofu over brown rice): Green beans are perfectly tender/crisp. Papaya slaw and pickles were crunchy, cool, and refreshing. That's about all the good there is to say.
I like spicy, but this was all spice and no good flavour to back it up (even without the red curry). Or rather, the many flavours just don't come together well. I like a lot of seasonings in one dish, but these simply don't meld well.
I don't like to be overly harsh, but it really was 'yuck'. Unfortunately, I had to throw most of it away - something I don't do lightly. With Raku, Thai Chef, and Thaiphoon within two blocks, there's no reason to settle. I'm hoping the management takes a hint from these reviews and improves the food. I love Asian food and thus love the concept. I'd be back if I heard the food had improved. Here's hoping they work out the kinks.
Went on Opening Lunch for lack of better things to do on a rainy Thursday afternoon in between classes. Got the tofu banh mi. Bread was very bready but a little too bready even for my breaded tastes. The tofu was plentiful and the mayo SPICY. I wish they had more veggie options - two of the three sauces are fish-based. I'm glad cilantro is optional and not a pre-req.
Came in with high hopes, left completely disappointed. The chicken is too spicy. The tofu is WAY too spicy. The meatballs are deep fried. The steak is bland. Yeah I tried all four meats and they all kinda suck or are overspiced. Or really unhealthy. Spice is how you hide bad meat or bad flavours. Which is exactly what these guys are doing. It's not like Chipotle where you can choose a hot/medium/mild salsa -- most of the meats, veggies, and sauces here are hot. Prices are cheap and the place looks halfway decent but it's small and the food was lousy. I can get cheap, unhealthy, lousy Asian food anywhere. Not planning on returning unless I hear things change.
Two other things to point out -- I was in a party of 4 and we all agreed that this place was not good. Also, it's interesting to note that many (all?) of the positive reviews on Yelp were from people that went pre-opening day. Which means their meals were free. Kinda hard to dislike a place if they feed you for free and make you feel like a special guest.
The decor of the place is Chipotle-esque but I will say the signing came off as cheap looking.
I went with a bowl of brown rice, half pork&chicken meatballs, half tofu, eggplant and the green sauce. Like many others, I was surprised by the spiciness of the 'mild' green sauce. It's good but pretty spicy. The highlight of the dish for me was the meatballs. They were great. The tofu is very small, yellowish in colour and didn't have a particularly strong taste.
I'm a big Chipotle and since this place is owned by the original Chipotle owner I had high expectations. It didn't quite meet my expectations on the first go around but it was good enough where I'm looking forward to trying out the rest of the offerings.
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