As soon as I heard about ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, the new concept by Chipotle's founder Steve Ells, I had high hopes for the "Asian Chipotle," mostly because it's close to my office. It's convenience food that's conveniently located (for me anyway).
I didn't expect it to be crazy delicious.
I mean it's Asian fast food, and, quite frankly, while I'll eat at Chipotle, I don't love, love it. I much prefer Baja Fresh, if I'm comparing apples to apples, and if I'm comparing apples to oranges, I would much rather eat tacos here or here. So I was really surprised that Shophouse's Vietnamese offerings are full of flavor. Like the flavor just reaches out and grabs you. Then it makes you do the truffle shuffle.
The Vietnamese meatballs, made with pork and chicken, are crazy delicious, and I would like to tell you about the grilled steak or tofu, but the problem is that every time I eat at ShopHouse, no matter what, I can't make myself order anything but the meatballs. I've had them over vermicelli noodles, brown rice, and in the banh mi.
The banh mi, by most measures, is the best I've ever had (and I've tested many), even if the bread-to-filling ratio is a little off. Think it's sacrilegious to love a DC-based banh mi instead of declaring my allegiance to one of the many authentic banh mi shops in Falls Church? Sorry. That's what I think.
But, as much as I liked the banh mi at ShopHouse, it is a little bread-y. So I stick to the meatballs and brown rice. Then I add spicy eggplant, corn, tamarind sauce, cilantro, peanuts, and garlic. It'a all so delicious, and, at the same time, seems good for you. But is it?
On a recent visit I asked the cashier if the nutrition information was available. She said no, but added that "it's super healthy." Looking at most of the ingredients, ShopHouse appears healthy, but, if Chipotle's nutrition information is any indication, we should be cautious. Yes, Chipotle offers fresh, healthy food, and, kudos, they even offer happy, sustainable meat. But, the numbers reveal that if you are watching your caloric intake, you should stick to a rice-less burrito bowl or tuck half that burrito in a bag for later because those healthy ingredients can add up to a lot of calories FAST.
I emailed ShopHouse for the nutrition information and received an email back from a ShopHouse rep who said, "we are still in the process of finalizing all of our recipes and do not want to give out our nutritional facts until we have all of our recipes down so that the information is as accurate as possible."
So the jury is still out on how much we have to worry about portion sizes. For now, we'll just have to go with how delicious it is.
Onto other business. When Lucky Peach first hit the shelves, I was really stoked. I thought it would be filled with great food writing; like a New Yorker for foodies. But, the writing isn't that great. I wasn't even happy with Todd Kliman's piece and I think he's a great writer. It seems like it's written by a club of chefs that all like to pat each other on the back with their fancy food knowledge and esoteric ingredients. Elitist. Boring. Mediocre. Am I being mean? Maybe. But I haven't heard one critique of this magazine and I would like to save you a few bucks. What do you guys think? Do you love Lucky Peach? Or will you save your money for real peaches?