Chipotle Meets Southeast Asia: An Interview With ShopHouse

ShopHouse

For those of you who don’t know, Chipotle has been opening restaurants nationwide under the name ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. Recently, a ShopHouse has opened right on M Street, and tomorrow, April 22, all Georgetown students are eligible for a free rice or noodle bowl. In other words, free food from the brains behind Chipotle. This is an offer you cannot refuse.

To learn more about the restaurant itself, 4E spoke on the phone with Chris Arnold, a spokesman for Chipotle and ShopHouse.



What is the origin of the name ShopHouse?

In some Asian cities, a shophouse is a midrise walk-up building, and people operate restaurants and fresh markets in the apartments above the businesses. It would be typical to see a shophouse in southeast Asia. In fact, that’s why it’s called ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen.

So clearly the central theme of ShopHouse is southeast Asian food. Can you describe the menu?

Yeah, the restaurant draws influence from southeast Asian cooking styles. It very closely follows the Chipotle model, but it’s rice bowls and noodle bowls. The employees assemble your bowls and you pick what you want in them. You can start with either brown rice, white rice or cold rice noodles. You can add chicken, steak, tofu, etc. Then you add sauce. We have different curries, a choice of vegetables like green beans sautéed with chili paste. You can add something crunchy, and we have little herb salads. You can check out the menu at shophousekitchen.com.

That sounds delicious! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Yeah, it’s pretty tasty.

What do you think sets ShopHouse apart from other chain restaurants?

We’re driven by the same things that make Chipotle so successful. We never thought our success was from tacos and burritos. It was from our unique food culture and people culture. Our food culture uses the best ingredients, and we use classic cooking techniques. Our people culture involves hiring really amazing people and empowering them to become future leaders of our company. We could apply the same driving forces to a restaurant serving any kind of food, which inspired ShopHouse. Basically, we’re translating the same culture to ShopHouse.

I’m sure you’re aware of the cult-like following Chipotle has among college students.

Yes, I am aware.

How do you plan on translating that success to ShopHouse?

Loyal customers are the products of a compelling unique dining experience. We try to earn their visit every time they come. We’re trying to offer an experience people find relevant and compelling, genuine and interactive.

Favorite menu item and why:

Cold rice noodles with pork and chicken meatballs, green curry sauce, green beans, peanuts, herb salad, green papaya slaw, just a great combination of flavors. Everything on the menu has flavors that are bold and pronounced. The ingredients are of great quality, there’s a painstaking attention to detail… You really can’t go wrong. People have favorites and will get the same thing every time, but if they mix it up with something new, they realize everything on the menu is good.

Your personalized bowl: What’s its name?

I’m too busy enjoying it.

Can the 4E bloggers get some free swag — T-shirts, coupons?

Let me get back to you on that.

And finally, I just want to run this name for a personalized bowl by you. We here at 4E are the Fourth Edition. What do you think about a bowl named the “Fourth Noodledition”?

It’s clever! But, you know, we stay away from actual menu items and names. We just focus on making great-tasting food and giving people exactly what they want. At Chipotle and ShopHouse, we want a focused menu that produces great variety.


Thanks for talking to us Chris Arnold, and thanks for being one of those awesome people with two first names! Also thanks to Stewart Wolfe for notifying us about the free bowls in the comment section of one of our articles.

Don’t forget to pick up your free bowl from ShopHouse on M Street between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. tomorrow!

Photo: shophousekitchen.com

Emily Min

Emily Min

Emily is a graduate from the NHS and was the former senior editor of 4E in Spring 2015. She loves breakfast food, lunch food and dinner food. And snacks! And Kanye.
Emily Min

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