To say that Chipotle changed the concept of fast food and how most people view Mexican food is no understatement. Now, the founders of Chipotle are trying to do to Asian fare what they did with Mexican fare eighteen years ago. (I still can’t believe Chipotle has been around that long!) The result is Shop House Southeast Asian Market, which I think will have no problem being just as successful as its sister restaurant. I found the food tasty (although it could have used more salt), filling, affordable (under $7 for a bowl!), and I didn’t have any post-fast food guilt. Win-win-win.
Diners can choose from a bowl or a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich). For the bowl, diners choose noodles or rice (brown or white), one of four veggies, a protein (pork and chicken meatballs, chicken, steak, or tofu), one of three sauces (mild or spicy curry or a tamarind vinaigrette), a garnish (pickled veggies, cooling papaya slaw, or herb salad) and finally some crunch (fried garlic, crushed peanuts, or toasted rice). The banh mi comes with a protein, papaya slaw, herb salad and peanuts.
On my first and only trip thus far, I tried a brown rice bowl with pork and chicken meatballs, roasted eggplant, papaya slaw, spicy curry sauce and fried garlic. (Thank goodness I wasn’t kissing anyone anytime soon). Everything tasted fresh (and apparently the meat used contains no hormones or antibiotics).
The meatballs were probably my favorite part because they contained one of my favorite meats (pork), were perfectly seasoned, had a crunchy exterior, and a flavorful, juicy interior. I loved that I could select brown rice. I liked the simplicity of the menu and how each component was chosen with purpose — protein, carb, veggie, some heat, cool garnish, and finally some crunch. The spicy curry sauce really packs a punch. So much so that I didn’t even think of reaching for the bottle of Sriracha that decorates each table. (And I do love my Sriracha!). The simplicity of the menu is played out in the decor which is minimalist but inviting.
My one complaint is that everything (save for the meatballs) could have used a smidge more salt. For those that have been reading my reviews, you might have noticed that I’ve complained about under-seasoned food . . . a lot. For the record, I’m not someone who has a high tolerance for salt. I like to think my palate is pretty well-balanced. Of course, feel free to take my advice about seasoning with or without a grain of salt (ha!). What I mean is that, for those that like little to no salt in their food, you may find the level of salt in the rice bowl ideal. You get what I’m trying to say, right?
Next time I think I’ll fork the banh mi with those awesome meatballs….