The Healthiest and Worst Bowls at ShopHouse

It may be owned by Chipotle founder Steve Ells, but ShopHouse’s simple menu makes it easy to eat healthy.

“It’s a good choice,” says registered dietitian Allison Marco of Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen in Dupont Circle. “And I think it’s much healthier than a lot of options out there.” Photograph by Erik Uecke.

It might be a little preemptive, but Chipotle founder Steve Ells seems to have done it again with his Asian-street-food-inspired ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. The eatery, which is being piloted in Dupont Circle, offers a curated menu of mix-and-match ingredients to create simple but boldly flavored bowls. It’s received lots of love so far, despite its obviously nascent status—nutrition information isn’t available yet, and the bành mí has been mysteriously removed from the online menu.

But the recipes from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia, combined with Chipotle’s signature fast-fresh cooking style, seem promising, and largely healthy, too.

“[ShopHouse] looks like a good choice—there’s a good amount of toppings, and overall, nothing stood out as being particularly unhealthy,” says Allison Marco, MS, RD, LDN. “But, without the nutrition information it’s difficult to tell exactly how they’re preparing things and what the portion sizes are.”

We had Marco build us a few examples of what all those combinations might yield. Check out her examples below.

• White rice, steak, either curry sauce, and crushed peanuts: You may notice there aren’t any vegetables in this bowl, which, at a place like this, would be doing yourself a serious disservice. Plus, “white rice doesn’t have a lot of nutritional benefits, the steak may be high in fat and cholesterol, the curry is made with coconut milk, which is high calorie and high fat, and the fat from crushed peanuts can add up quickly,” Marco explains.

• Rice noodles, pork and chicken meatballs, spicy charred corn, and tamarind vinaigrette: “Rice noodles generally have fewer calories than rice, and even though there’s some pork, there’s also chicken in the meatballs, so they might be leaner,” our expert says. The simple tamarind vinaigrette is likely low in fat. There is a vegetable in this bowl, but charred corn isn’t as good a source of nutrients as some of the other veggies available.

• Brown rice, grilled chicken satay, eggplant with Thai basil, tamarind vinaigrette, and herb salad: “Generally I tell people to stay away from carbs when eating out because the portion sizes tend to be too large, so if you can get a riceless bowl, that’s great,” Marco says. “If not, get the brown rice.” The chicken and eggplant add great texture, flavor, protein, and important nutrients, but the real triumph here is the herb salad—the cilantro, mint, and Thai basil add a burst of flavor without unwanted additives. Marco also advises to stay away from crunchy toppings, “in case they’re fried in oil, which adds trans fat that’s detrimental to your health.”

ShopHouse is a pretty straightforward place, so if you’re looking to stick with the absolute healthiest stuff, avoid items with words like “wok-fried” and “crispy,” and skip the rice if possible.

Marco also recommends listening to your body. “Use your hunger cues—eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re not anymore.”

While ShopHouse’s portion sizes and nutrition are still unclear, the restaurant seems to be on the right path. “It’s a good choice,” says Marco. “And I think it’s much healthier than a lot of options out there.”