Chipotle thinks so. Last month, Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. opened a new restaurant concept called ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen in Washington D.C.’s DuPont Circle.
Inspired by cuisines from Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam, ShopHouse serves up bánh mì, noodle bowls, and rice bowls using the “Chipotle model,” where customers move along a cafeteria-style line and customize their meals according to flavor preference and diet.
Protein options include grilled chicken satay, pork & chicken meatballs, grilled steak, and organic tofu. Bánh mì meals cost about $6.50 and are garnished with a green papaya slaw, herbs (cilantro, basil, and mint), and peanuts. Noodle and rice bowls cost about $7 and come with the choice of one vegetable (Chinese broccoli, eggplant & Thai basil, long bean, and spicy charred corn), one sauce (spicy red curry, green curry, and tamarind vinaigrette), and one garnish (green papaya slaw, pickles, and herb salad).
Like Chipotle, ShopHouse only uses natural ingredients that
are sustainably grown and naturally raised.
In creating the menu, Chipotle enlisted the help of Nate Appleton, 2009 James Beard Foundation Award Rising Star Chef winner, and Kyle Connaughton, formerly of Fat Duck, a Michelin three-star restaurant.
ShopHouse’s sparse interior was designed to evoke the ubiquitous shophouse – a ground-level shop with living quarters upstairs – present throughout Southeast Asia.
Thaddeus Briner, ShopHouse’s architect, considered “lining the walls with rice paper and installing bamboo floors before deciding both were too cliché” according to Bloomberg.
“You want to bring something that is kind of memorable without relying on a sort of caricature of Southeast Asian food,” he said.
Among local foodies, ShopHouse has attracted quite a buzz despite the restaurant’s attempt to maintain a low profile. Yelp diners gave ShopHouse three out of five stars based on 78 reviews.
Investors bought into the hype by sending Chipotle’s stock to a record high one day after ShopHouse’s opening. While many Wall Street analysts are optimistic about ShopHouse’s potential, Chipotle CEO Steve Elis has indicated that there are no plans to open other locations.
If there are any readers who have eaten at ShopHouse, please share your experience. I am dying to know what goi du du tastes like on a bánh mì – not.