The “pancake” part of Michelle’s Pancake House in Cupertino might prove a little confusing for diners used to the fluffy, syrup-drenched variety served at IHOP. The pancakes at Michelle’s, which is actually a Chinese restaurant, are bite-size rounds with a paper-thin dough on the outside and a savory blend of meat, veggies and spices on the inside, all cooked on the griddle. The pancake menu also includes a thicker, fried variety of dough that loosely holds together several layers of meat and veggies, much like a wrap or a burrito.
The restaurant was lively on my visit; most of the tables were already filled, and it was only a Monday night. The kitchen is open and in plain sight, providing diners with a clear view of the cooks rolling pancake dough and preparing the noodles. Everything, the waitress told me, is made by hand, and no MSG is used. The food, she added, comes from northern China. Already on the table were a menu, a piece of paper and a pen to fill out your order. There were a couple sauces also, one with a prominent garlic flavor.
I ordered a plate of pork and chive pancakes, the round variety, which came to $7.95. There were eight on the plate. The dough was very thin, yet chewy. The pork and chive mixture inside was quite hot, with a meaty broth that burst into my mouth (and onto the table) when I pierced the thin skin. They were quite delicious and much more filling than their small size suggested.
My favorite item was the beef roll, also $7.95. This featured the wrap variety of pancake. My order consisted of two rolls, each cut into four pieces. They were shaped somewhat like finger sandwiches. The very flavorful, thinly sliced beef was offset nicely by the crispy dough and some green onions.
Michelle’s also serves dumplings and pan-friend buns. I ordered the lamb and onions version for $10.95. These came six to a plate; they were bigger and had a thicker and chewier exterior dough than the round pancakes. The dumplings, on the other hand, resembled pot stickers.
The noodle dishes are definitely worth trying. Their slightly imperfect shape confirmed their handmade quality. I tried the Zha Jiang Mian ($7.50). The wheat-based noodles were thick and enveloped by ground pork, onions, tofu, edamame, baby corn, carrots and cucumber. This dish had a prominent sweet flavor that meshed well with the meat and veggies.
I also sampled a Taiwanese root beer for $1.95. It had more carbonation than an American root beer but wasn’t as sweet. It made a pleasant little treat to go with the rest of the meal.
Michelle’s Pancake House
19060 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino; 408.517.9886