Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ShopHouse: Chipotle goes Asian in Dupont (First Bite)

Metro-accessible banh mi.
This weekend, I checked out the much-discussed new Asian concept from Chipotle: ShopHouse. It’s the first and only location planned currently, and it had a soft-opening in Dupont Circle last week. The food is supposedly inspired by Southeast Asian street food, combined with Chipotle’s tenet of sourcing responsibly grown ingredients while churning out orders quickly like widgets.

The space is pretty spare, but the kitchen is astonishingly open to viewing while placing your order. There didn't appear to be a separate kitchen for food prep so you can see everything that the cooks are doing.

Similar to Chipotle’s brand of Mexican, you pick your base--either rice or noodles--and then add your protein and customize your topics. I wasn’t expecting to like the place, given Chipotle’s calorie and sodium bombs/burritos, but the food was veggie-centric, seemingly healthy, and came with a surprising amount of heat and complex Asian flavors for a fast food joint. 

Even more exciting, ShopHouse features Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches on the menu (the super-trendy yuppie food this year). While these were by no means authentic banh mi (as authentic as banh mi in the US go), my sandwich managed to supply that magical mix of french bread, grilled meats, and tangy pickled vegetables. The masterful but simple touch was adding basil to the assortment of pickled vegetables on top. While the bread is definitely softer than the crustier french baguettes that are usually employed in Vietnamese eateries, I am not opposed to bread that doesn't massacre your mouth. And who cares about authenticity when you have basil and metro-accessible banh mi.

Given the Chipotle prices, quick service, and seemingly healthy options, I will be returning regularly.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)
Price: $ - Cheap
Recommended: Banh mi with meatballs

1516 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
Neighborhood: Dupont
Metro: Dupont
Website | Google MapsWashingtonian | Yelp

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