And now for another addition to our list of pancake restaurants in Sapporo; we bring your our review of Sapporo’s A Happy Pancake restaurant.
You’ll find 幸せのパンケーキ A Happy Pancake very close to Sapporo station, a few minutes toward the west from the PARCO and Mitsukoshi department stores, not far from Gold’s Gym, and just above the Seicomart (which as everyone knows, is a local Hokkaido company, and the best convenience store company in the world).
But before we get into more detail about Odori’s A Happy Pancake, let’s talk a little about the pancake tradition in Japan.
As an American, my instinct is to talk about pancakes in Sapporo within the overall category of “breakfast,” but maybe that isn’t the way to think about pancakes here in Japan.
In the United States (or the UK, or much of Europe) a dish like eggs and bacon is a traditional breakfast. We have a lot savory options, but we are more likely to include sweet options for breakfast than for any other meal. Oatmeal (savory), but with some apples, raisons, sugar, or all of the above (sweet). Toast, but with a sweet jelly or jam. Muffins. Fresh fruit. And pancakes, classically with a sweet maple syrup are a part of that sweet breakfast tradition.
A Happy Pancake in Sapporo does do several sweet pancakes. Maybe some of the traditional western breakfast pancakes, although there seems to be a distinct lack of butter. In fact, there seems to be more ice cream than butter on these pancakes, several “desert” pancakes, perhaps covered in chocolate – doesn’t necessarily feel like a breakfast shop.
They also don’t open until 10:30. And that is another way the Japanese depart from a western idea of pancakes for breakfast. In fact, with a few rare exceptions, most pancake restaurants in Sapporo don’t open until 10 AM, 10:30 AM, or 11 AM. That is kind of killing the potential for breakfast (but does suggest brunch, but that isn’t much of a concept here in Sapporo).
And so we are inclined to assume that pancakes are not a breakfast food in Japan. And could just as easily be a desert.
As you approach A Happy Pancake Sapporo from the street, you’ll see a version of the menu outside, at the entrance to the building (1F). That will give you an idea of what to expect with the food.
Inside, it’s bright. Clean, well lit, but not warm or particularly comfortable. Kind of standard artificial materials, plastics, laminated menus. The white tile walls near the kitchen are nice, and the rear of the restaurant feels a little more comfortable, but the front of the dining area feels a bit like a dining hall or a cafeteria in a hospital.
As you sit, you can take a look at the menu. You’ll see lots of choices – some simple pancakes (but with ice cream), some with fruit, some drowning in chocolate and bananas, and then savory options, with bacon, with salmon, and other choices.
And if the detail hasn’t yet caught your eyes – the pancakes are fluffy, aren’t they?
As we previously discussed in our review of J.S Pancake Cafe (in Sapporo’s Stellar Place), the Japanese like a souffle pancake. And while we previous said that seems to be a “French” style (it is certainly a French word), we have been told that a souffle pancake is specifically a pancake in the Japanese style. I did not know that.
These are Japanese pancakes (until the French can convince me otherwise.)
Also discussed in our review of J.S. Pancake Cafe: My first experience with these “tall” pancakes was in fact, in Japan. The pancakes at A Happy Pancake look like they are exactly from that tradition.
But how about the taste?
I ordered the combination that came with eggs and bacon (and a little side of salsa). I am pretty sure that is what I ordered last time I was here (as a lover of Mexican food here in Sapporo, the idea of that salsa may be impossible for me to resist). And I liked my breakfast, but I think the meal photographs better than it tastes.
The pancakes are tall. And while they would want you to call them “fluffy,” they are rather dense and heavy. The pancakes are good looking, but a little dry. It is amazing to me that they don’t come with butter (Did I say that before? Seriously, why is there no butter on these pancakes?), which would immediately smooth them out a little. The pancakes at J.S. Pancake are not dry (they are not as “tall” either, more like traditional western pancakes), and they do come with butter (maple butter… whooaaaaa) and that is the right idea.
The pancakes at A Happy Pancake are good, but they also kind of remind me of cornbread. Both in color, and in the dry, austere taste. They similarly remind me of scones – a pastry that is rarely edible without butter, jam, or dipped in cream (or coffee). I did enjoy my pancakes at A Happy Pancake. I would eat them again, but they almost remind me a “health food” version of what we actually want in a pancake… as if they were “diet pancakes,” with some delicious part intentionally left out.
I asked if there was cornmeal in the pancakes, and there is not (or so I am told, but wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be untrue). But they do have a grainy quality to them. We were told they are made only of flour and egg.
The overall meal was good. Or at least adequate. If I’m not selling A Happy Pancake well, it’s because I think the restaurant is a little cold. … like my eggs when they arrived. Pretty, but not enough love. I want a little love with my breakfast… or whenever it is I am eating pancakes and ice cream.
They want you to know that the pancakes do not come quick. Apparently, they are baked. That is not traditional in pancake culture (where our pancakes comes from a frying pan, or perhaps a grill, or a griddle). But it seems I have lots to learn about Japanese pancakes, don’t I?
As for the baking time, I didn’t mind the wait. They say it’s longer if the restaurant is crowded.
You also have to get your own water. There is a water station (with lovely water, with slices of citrus in it). But this adds to the idea that A Happy Pancake is not quite a restaurant, doesn’t really want to give you proper service. Like a cafeteria, get up and get it yourself. It doesn’t really make sense to me. And isn’t charming.
Some basic things to drink, too, of course.
I was excited to come. I had a nice breakfast, and I would come back… but I am sure there must be better choices for pancakes in Sapporo (even from a short list).
And on that note, we will commit to finding more about pancakes restaurants in Sapporo. And we’ll update this review when we have some other recommendations. But for now, we recommend J.S. Pancake restaurant instead of this place (if you have plenty of time to wait for table, or can get there when there isn’t much line).
More on pancakes in Sapporo… coming soon.