Photo: Joe / ShopHouse
ShopHouse is Chipotle’s Asian spinoff, and it has the potential to be a huge new business for the popular fast food restaurant. Its test location at Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., is seeing sales volume surge according to Chipotle’s first quarter earnings announcements.
And many are now saying that ShopHouse could be the next Chipotle.
The idea for ShopHouse came to CEO Steve Ellis while he was visiting Thailand and Singapore last year.
The restaurant draws on Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Singaporean cuisines for its recipes.
Here are some reviews from Yelp that give a broad sense of how it is being received.
Holy Mother of Chipotle! ShopHouse is a Thaiphoon of tastes, a flood of flavours and a bargain for a bowl.
So you combine Chipotle's tried and true 'build your meal' method, but with very fresh Neo-Asian ingredients. It's fast, it's fresh it's relatively healthy (especially the tofu option) and it's cheap. The toppings are spicy, but I dig it that way.
On my first visit I had a bowl with rice noodles, tofu, eggplant and slaw. The only reason I didn't give them 5 stars is because I've only had 1 order. My rating may change after trying few more combos.
While ShopHouse touts itself has having Southeast Asian cuisine, I would consider it more of a spin-off or even an interpretation. So will it be authentic? Hmm... that's debatable. Is it tasty? Absolutely!
I've been to ShopHouse quite a few times (maybe less than 10 now) and if you're into the setup of Chipotle (or fast casual anything), you'll dig ShopHouse. You can opt for noodles, rice or bahn-mi and load up the fixin's. I'm a fan of the rice bowl with pork and chicken meatballs with the slaw. I've tried it with green beans but my weakling palate can't really take anything remotely spicy. As for sauces, the vinaigrette or the green curry tend to be on the mild side but are fairly flavorful.
The only downer about ShopHouse is that 1) it gets crazy busy on weekends during normal lunch times so it's best to be avoided then (post lunch around 2pm, it's empty) 2) it's not super authentic (if you want the real deal, go to Eden centre or A&J or....) 3) seating can be few and far between even when it's not super busy so takeout may be your only option, depending on the day. It'd be cool if there was sidewalk seating. Maybe one day, ShopHouse!
When I heard Chipotle had opened a new Asian eatery in DC I knew I had to check it out quickly. I was NOT disappointed. I like this even more than Chipotle for quick and tasty food. In fact the food is delicious. I have been twice and both time gone for the brown rice and meatballs in a bowl. Then a mixture of veges with the spicy hot sauce. Was sceptical that an Asian Chipotle would work but I was wrong. Great tasting and cheap. So when are they going to open one up in central Jersey?
After hearing all the hype about this 'Asian Chipotle' I tried it out. It was horrible. I had the bowl and the combination of cold noodles with hot meat was strange. My (and my friends) biggest problem was the intense spices and flavoring. It tasted like they threw a bunch of random Asian tasting spices and ginger onto every item there; the taste was overwhelming and it lingered in my mouth afterward. The banh-mi looked like a subway sandwich and probably tastes like the bowl I had did. They should just call it a sandwich because it doesn't resemble banh-mi at all. It was also very crowded and we shared a table with 3 other random people. My adventure out to DC to try Shophouse was a disaster and I'm never going back there. I'll stick to Chipotle and REAL Asian food.
I do not know how ShopHouse only has three stars. I've been there twice now and tried two very different things and loved them both.
Both times I was in it wasn't very busy and the ladies behind the counter were extraordinarily helpful. They took the time to answer my questions and offer suggestions as to what meat went well with what toppings and talk about each of the items a little bit.
The first time I went there I had a bowl of rice noodles, meatballs, 1/2 corn & 1/2 eggplant drizzled in the tamarind vinaigrette and topped with green papaya slaw and crushed peanuts. The meatballs were amazing! The vinaigrette was the perfect thing on those rice noodles. My husband had the chicken on rice topped with the red curry (I unfortunately don't remember the rest of the details). The chicken was flavorful and well cooked.
My second trip there was on my own. I asked the woman behind the counter what she suggested for a bowl that wasn't going to be eaten for a while and she suggested the rice. I topped it with the steak, 1/2 corn & 1/2 long beans, red curry, green papaya slaw, and crispy garlic. Everything held of well on my trip home on the metro. I ended up not getting to eat until about an hour or so after I'd ordered and it was still great! The steak was super tender and the red curry was a bit spicy, but nothing involving mouth-melting. For reference, I order Buffalo Wild Wing's 'Hot' wing sauce. (The 'Blazin'' sauce make me want to cry.) The red curry at ShopHouse isn't as spicy as the Hot wing sauce.
I can't wait until I can make it back there!
--I walked in, ordered, paid, and walked out, in ~1 minute. In Dupont Circle? At 12:30pm? WHAT IS THAT.
--My food-prepper walked me through each station and explained what everything was (not necessary with the rice, but hey).
--My food had flavour! A LOT of flavour. Yay flavour!
--My bowl of steak, rice, and eggplant ran $8.25. It's not a huge bowl, but even with my giant appetite, it stretches two meals. Still. It's a bit more than what I want to pay for lunch, and a little more than I think it should be.
--I didn't receive plastic ware with my to-go, but it is entirely feasible I walked out without them.
Spicy is used accurately. I had the 'medium' tamarind vinaigrette and my mouth is currently aflame as a I write this. In fact, that's a great way to make a single-serving meal stretch for another lunch.
I'd definitely be willing to give it another go, but after the first try, I was kind of underwhelmed.
Maybe I just haven't figured out my 'combo' yet. There's a lot of choices and just winged it without really thinking 'how would this taste together.' To tell you the truth, I barely remember what I got, because everything was so quick (which for many is a plus.)
I can tell you that when they say curry is spicy, they mean it. We're talking nose-clearing spicy, just the way I like it. So I was pretty psyched about that. if you like it hot, make sure you get the curry.
It's also wee bit more expensive than Chipotle, my bill came to nearly $12. A cheap dinner, but not the cheapest lunch.
Two of my favourite things are Chipotle and Asian food, so I was REALLY excited for this place. So far, pretty disappointing. First of all, everyone was nice but I noticed nobody making my banh mi was wearing gloves, including (worst of all) the checkout person who was also touching money (and my sandwich). That's a problem. Second, I liked the meat that came in my banh mi but the bread was just mediocre. And I didn't love the papaya slaw either. You know what would be great? If I could actually customise my toppings like um... Chipotle? The slaw is pre-made with carrots, cucumber, jalapeno I think and not customisable at all. The whole thing was quite spicy, too spicy, and there was no warning whatsoever about this. Guess I won't be bringing my kids there ever (and we live nearby -- I take them to the Chipotle one block away all the time, Chipotle has a great kids menu).
Here's my takeaway from that banh mi: anyone remember that food truck Phenomenon from DC this summer? They served pho and banh mi sandwiches. The banh mi sandwich was amazing. They closed down at the end of the summer because of some weird personal drama of the girl running it but that's just it -- she was a college student at GW and this was her summer gig. So a college girl running a food truck makes a (much) better banh mi than Chipotle's 'next big thing' which they presumably spent millions of dollars and their best people developing. How is that possible?
All in all, so far this place has a long way to go. I'm hoping the concept and the food are fluid and will be a work-in-progress as a test store. Because I don't think this is ready for prime time rollout at all.
(Note: this review was based on a visit on opening day, so there's plenty of room for future improvement).
Update: I've now been multiple times to try everything because I live right nearby and love Asian food (and Chipotle). The food is TOO DAMN SPICY. (Picture the rent is too damn high guy pounding his fist when you read that). It wouldn't be so annoying if the menu actually said what is spicy and what is not -- but there is no info whatsoever. It's a mystery. All in all the food is not good enough to play spicy-roulette or do a full voir dire with the serving person every time about every single meat and vegetable. The menu needs more information and the flavours need a refresh because they are nothing special.
I think this place is a great concept. So many people love Chipotle, particularly the quality of their ingredients and the style of food preparation. Being someone who loves Indian and Thai food, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from each of the options here, so the bowl I ordered for myself turned out to be excellent. The chicken satay, eggplant, corn, and pickled veggies are really good, as is the curry sauce.
I think the one disadvantage of this place is that, unlike Chipotle where most everyone knows what they're ordering, the variety of flavours going on at ShopHouse could probably cause problems for someone who isn't familiar with curries, tamarind, flavours like that. Although, I suppose that's probably why the pilot restaurant was put in a neighbourhood like Dupont with the variety of food already there, locals should be familiar. Just not sure this type of restaurant will be able to reach the same broad audiences that its sibling Chipotle can.
Great idea Chipotle! I agree with other reviewers - the portions aren't quite what you would expect at Chipotle. Also everything tends to be a little spicy (even if you don't get any of the sauces). However, if you enjoy spicy food this is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat.
I actually ordered takeout (and forgot to order rice/noodles... not sure how that happened, but the fact that I still enjoyed my meal of meat and vegetables is a testament to this place!), but from what I could see, the restaurant has a pretty hip ambiance. Nicer than Chipotle. I went in the early evening so I'm not sure how busy this place gets around peak lunch/dinner time.
The Grilled Steak was really good and well seasoned. Out of the vegetables, I would recommend the Chinese Broccoli and Long Bean (the corn and eggplant weren't bad either). I also really liked the Green Papaya Slaw.
Anyway I'll probably be back here... and I won't forget to order rice next time!