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ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen has been quietly making changes to the menu at its flagship shop in Dupont Circle. D.C. is the guinea pig for the nearly year-old Chipotle spin-off, before it expands elsewhere.
Banh mi has already gotten the axe. ShopHouse dropped the Vietnamese sandwiches from its menu near the beginning of the summer. Chipotle/ShopHouse marketing consultant Austin Roberts says one of biggest reasons is that the culinary team never found a bread it really liked. Everything else is made in-house, but not the bread. “We didn’t want to serve something in our restaurants that we weren’t going to stand behind and that we thought didn’t really fit,” he says.
Negative reviews of the baguettes probably didn’t help. Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema wrote “the Vietnamese sandwiches are better for their fillings… than with their ordinary bread.” Washingtonian remarked that the “thick, chewy banh mi roll made us wish we were at the Eden Center instead.”
Another change: swapping juicy slices of steak for minced chunks of beef. Roberts says the shop wanted to use a more “traditional” form of steak and opted for a northern Thai recipe for laab. The switch allows the restaurant to use more cuts of meats. “It helps us to be able to buy more of the cow,” Roberts says. (Y&H misses the original steak recipe.)
One thing that hasn’t changed is the spiciness level of its sauces (the hot curry is really hot), but ShopHouse has cut back the spice on its tofu. Roberts says they’ve gotten both positive and negative feedback about the heat level but decided to stay true to their vision and the typical spiciness of Southeast Asian cuisine.
The chain has made other tweaks, but Roberts says they’re so minor they’re not worth noting. They’re also finalizing nutrition info for their noodle and rice bowls. As far as future expansion plans, Roberts declines to comment. But another location will be coming to Georgetown next year.
Photo by Chris Shott