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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Restaurant Adventure: ShopHouse

If you guys haven't heard, ShopHouse is Chipotle's Southeast Asian sister restaurant where you order custom rice and salad bowls. They draw their inspiration from Indonesian, Singaporean, Malaysian, and Vietnamese cuisine. The setup is just like Chipotle where you choose your base (rice, noodles, or salad), protein, vegetable, sauce, garnish, and topping as you move down the line. There's only a handful of restaurants currently located in California, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., but fortunately for me, there's one located in Westwood, CA near UCLA so I got to check it out!
ShopHouse - Westwood, CA
ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen
1059 Broxton Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
ShopHouse - Meatball Bowl
If you're curious, you can check out the full menu on ShopHouse's website. On my first visit, I ordered the following for my bowl:
  • ½ cold rice noodle/ ½ brown rice: I thought the brown rice was a little hard. I slightly preferred the noodles.  
  • Pork & Chicken Meatballs: These seemed a little on the fatty side. They were mainly salty and you couldn’t really taste the herbs that were in them. 
  • Green Beans: I was originally going to choose the broccoli, but it looked yellowed like it had been sitting in the window too long so I chose the green beans tossed with caramelized shallots instead. The green beans were too “blistered” for me. There were several fully burnt pieces! I really didn’t like how they didn’t remove the stems and fibrous ends on all the green beans. 
  • Tamarind Vinaigrette: The sourness somehow brought out a bitter taste. Maybe the burnt taste of the green beans?  
  • Green Papaya Slaw: The flavor of this kind of got lost with the vinaigrette. It was more for textural contrast in my opinion. 
  • Herb Salad: The guy threw a little bit of cilantro and Thai basil on each bowl, even if you didn't pick it for your garnish. I like Thai basil so I thought it added a nice burst of flavor to the meatballs. 
  • Crushed Peanuts: Self explanatory. :)
Overall, this wasn't my favorite combination. The flavors just didn't mix well and I couldn't get over the fibrous green beans.
ShopHouse - Chicken Bowl
But I didn't want to completely rule out ShopHouse because they had so many other choices so on my second visit, I opted to try a different combination of food.

  • ½ cold rice noodle/ ½ jasmine rice: I liked this combo a lot better than the brown rice. The jasmine rice was soft but still firm and went really well with red curry sauce. 
  • Grilled Chicken Satay: The meat was really tender and cooked perfectly. It reminded me of the chicken from Chipotle but with different spices. I definitely liked this way more than the meatballs. 
  • Charred Corn: Again, the broccoli didn't look appetizing because it was yellowed so I went with the corn. It added slight pops of fragrant sweetness and was even perfume-y at times. 
  • Spicy Red Curry: I'm a fan of Thai red curry so I enjoyed this. It was spicy but creamy from the coconut milk. I wish they had given me a bigger scoop. 
  • Pickles: I opted to try this instead of the Green Papaya Slaw. This was made with carrots and cucumbers and tasted like the Vietnamese carrot and daikon (white radish) pickles you'd get in Vietnamese sandwiches. These are kind of sweet and not your typical sour pickles. 
  • Herb Salad: See above. 
  • Toasted Rice AND Crushed Peanuts: This time, the guy let me add multiple toppings.They both added crunch, but the Toasted Rice offered something completely new to me. It was like eating tiny hard bits and I can't say I enjoyed this texture. I'll probably skip the Toasted Rice in the future.
Overall, I liked this combination a lot more than the first one. The flavors just worked better together and, aside from the Toasted Rice, didn't have any major problems.
ShopHouse - Wall of Sriracha
I also wanted to mention that if you're a fan of Sriracha, ShopHouse has you covered. There's a whole wall of it free for the taking! No shame in dousing your bowl in sriracha if you so desire. There's plenty for everyone!

On the whole, ShopHouse offered a unique fast food experience with flavors not typically seen in fast food places. I can't see myself craving it like I would with Chipotle, but I wouldn't mind going back if a friend wanted to try it. I just know so many better Vietnamese, Malaysian, and other Southeast Asian places that ShopHouse would get lost in the mix.


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