If you haven't yet heard of ShopHouse, you will soon. The new ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen was all the buzz when it opened in the Dupont Circle area of DC late last year. Under the same ownership as Chipotle, it is a similar concept - fresh, good quality food served quickly. Rumor has it that they are looking to expand by opening more restaurants not only in DC, but in Philadelphia as well.
With all this buzz, I went to check it out. The menu is pretty simple. First you choose either a hoagie or a bowl. I chose a bowl. Then, you choose either rice noodles, jasmine rice, or brown rice. Next, you choose meat or tofu. Easy choice. Next, you choose your vegetables. The bowl comes with one vegetable, but I wanted two so I paid a little extra. The choices are: wok-fried broccoli with chili-vinegar, spicy charred corn with scallions and chili jam, charred eggplants with chili and Thai basil, or blistered green beans tossed with carmelized shallots. Not bad for a fast food joint! Next, you choose your sauce. After telling the lady that I was vegan, she asked if I ate fish sauce. Um, no. She then informed me that only one sauce is vegan - the tamarind vinaigrette. Lastly, you choose your garnishes and toppings such as green papaya slaw, pickles, herb salad, crispy garlic, toasted rice, or crushed peanuts.
Wow - lots of stuff! I ended up with a brown rice bowl with curried tofu, spicy wok-fried broccoli with chili vinegar, and charred eggplants and chili with Thai basil in a tamarind vinaigrette topped with herb salad and crispy garlic. I took it to go.
When I got home, I was impressed with the bold flavors. Perhaps I had mixed a bit too much, but it all went together well. The broccoli was super spicy and delicious and the eggplant had a charred chili taste to it. The tofu was good, but it was a bit overcooked. One of the reasons I went here is because this is currently the only place in DC where you can get Hodo Soy-brand tofu. I have had their curry tofu in California and it is so much better plain than when it is overcooked. The toppings were good as well, but in the future, I could do without the pickled vegetables. They were a bit smelly and didn't really add anything to the taste of the dish.
I think they have a great concept here -- good, fresh, tasty food at reasonable prices, served quickly. You can't argue with that. My bowl with the extra vegetable was still only $8.50. That ain't bad at all. Next time, I want to try those green beans. They looked delicious!
1516 Connecticut Avenue
(202) 232- 4141