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All We Can Eat
Posted at 06:15 PM ET, 09/27/2011

ShopHouse responds quickly to vegetarian complaints


A tofu rice bowl at Southeast Asian Kitchen: Now, when you order it, you’ll be told before you get to the sauce decision that the curries contain fish sauce. (Jonathan Newton - WASHINGTON POST)
It was just last week when I acted on the complaint of a Twipster and reported how ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, the new concept from Chipotle founder Steve Ells, wasn’t warning vegetarians that its two curry sauces contain fish sauce. As I wrote, visitors to the ShopHouse Web site would have to dig around a bit to find mention of it. Perhaps more importantly, workers weren’t following company policy, which is to tell anyone who orders an otherwise-vegetarian meal that the curries don’t qualify.

As of this week, both of those circumstances have changed.

On Sunday, another tipster e-mailed me to say the Web site summary of the sauces now contains the parenthetical “not vegetarian” at the end of the description of the two curries. (Once I cleared my browser’s cache, I could see that it was true.) And when I made another visit today to order the tofu-brown rice bowl for lunch, I was told not once, but twice, that I’d need to stay away from the curry sauces if I wanted to keep the meal veggie. (ShopHouse also offers a tamarind vinaigrette that is vegetarian.)

(UPDATE: The restaurant has also included an asterisked note about the curries being non-vegetarian on its paper menus.)

This might not appease those who think ShopHouse should explicitly state on the in-shop menu boards the non-vegetarian ingredients in the curries. That’s what Chipotle announced it would do after a non-pork-eating Maxim editor complained that he had unknowingly consumed bacon in the pinto beans for years. But if the staff training holds up and other consumers have the same experience at ShopHouse as I did, I can’t imagine how a vegetarian could be caught unawares anymore.

I’m not a vegetarian, of course, but merely an interested eater and journalist, and that means that, frankly, I’m getting a little sick of that tofu bowl. I’ve ordered it three times now — once because it’s what I wanted at the time and then twice more to check on this complaint — and now I’m in the mood for a banh mi with pork and chicken meatballs. Perhaps tomorrow.

By  |  06:15 PM ET, 09/27/2011

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