ShopHouse, the Southeast Asian concept operated by the folks at Chipotle, has been open since 2011 in Washington D.C. That first test market location has done well enough that the company has decided it's time to take their new baby out on the road in the hopes of doing for Southeast Asian food what Chipotle has done for Mexican food. That is, make a whole lot of money for Chipotle. Los Angeles is the lucky host to ShopHouse's second location, which is opening next week on Sunset Boulevard just west of the 101.

Yesterday, ShopHouse allowed curious journalists and bloggers in to check out the space and food and get the full PR spiel. We were curious enough to stop by.

Much like Chipotle, ShopHouse is set up as a choose-your-own-adventure assembly line, and much like Chipotle, a lot of emphasis is put on the idea that the food is fresh and the meat “sustainable.” You choose from cold rice noodles, or brown or white rice, then choose one topping from each category: protein (grilled chicken satay, pork and chicken meatballs, steak laab or tofu), vegetable (broccoli, green beans, eggplant or charred corn), sauce (red curry, green curry or tamarind vinaigrette), topping and garnish. You end up with a bowl piled high with food, a pretty substantial serving for under $8.

But the most surprising thing about ShopHouse is how bold this food is. It's possible to get a low-heat meal, but most of this food is aggressively and appropriately spiced. The curry sauces are thicker than many Thai curries, and pretty intense. The green beans are cooked with chili jam, and pack quite a kick. The eggplant is full of Thai basil and appropriately smooshed and delicious.

This first L.A. ShopHouse location (there's another one in the works in Santa Monica) is located near the edge of Thaitown, which is a pretty bold move. Will it compete with the Thai-run small businesses nearby? Probably not. Will the office workers in the area flock to it? I'd wager so. And if ShopHouse's dreams are realized and it takes over the nation a la Chipotle, that's a chain restaurant I'd gladly pull off the interstate to frequent.

ShopHouse opens to the public this coming Monday, June 17.

Interior of ShopHouse's new Hollywood location; Credit: B. Rodell

Interior of ShopHouse's new Hollywood location; Credit: B. Rodell

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