anyone who has spent even a tiny bit of time around me knows this about my food addictions: i freaking love chipotle. in an obsessive way. one summer, in fact, i ate it every day for nearly six weeks. that was years ago, and i've still not burnt out. so, when i learned that founder steve ells was piloting a chipotle-esque new restaurant of southeast asian cuisine near my 'hood? well. excited doesn't even begin to cover it. located on connecticut between dupont metro's two exits, shophouse southeast asian kitchen is easily accessible and easily as addictive as its sister restaurant. the food is flavorful, the potential combinations myriad and intriguing, and the sriracha supply almost endless. it needs to expand. quickly. preferably to a location close to my house. (i'm spoiled: there are at least three chipotles within as many miles near where i live) until then, i'll be content to metro in for my fix.
shophouse borrows from chipotle's meal style: quick, customizable dishes that accommodate a variety of palates and tolerances of spice. not that you'd expect a burrito option at a southeast asian kitchen, but it offers only bowls. you choose from a variety of bases: brown rice, jasmine rice, chilled rice noodles, or napa cabbage. atop that, you add a protein from the choices of grilled chicken satay, grilled steak laab, pork and chicken meatballs, or organic tofu. (like chipotle, you can pay extra to increase your protein portion or add another.) following that, you choose a vegetable from wok-fried broccoli, spicy charred corn, eggplant and thai basil, or blistered green beans. the sauces available to top your creation include a tamarind vinaigrette, green curry, or spicy red curry, and you can also add a garnish of green papaya slaw, pickled vegetables, or fresh herb salad. finally, to finish, there are crispy toppings: toasted rice, crispy garlic, or crushed peanuts. in case you don't want to calculate it yourself, that's a whopping 1728 regular combinations. and shophouse also provides, as you can see along the wall, a lot of sriracha for those who'd like to further spice up their bowl.
for my first bowl, i chose a napa cabbage base, the tofu (ground organic, with ginger, tamarind, and cilantro), the charred eggplant with chilis and thai basil, no sauce, but double garnishes of pickled vegetables (mixed radishes, carrots, and cucumbers in a singaporean-style brine) and herb salad (cilantro, mint, and thai basil). i also skipped the toppings, as i figured my bowl was probably crunchy enough already. i did not skip, however, taking advantage of shophouse's liquor license, and really enjoyed trying thai beer. they also offer the dogfish head 60-minute ipa for $5, which is quite a steal.
shophouse is good. dc needs more. many more.