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Wolfe in Chic Clothes

[whitespace] Wolfe Cafe
Bowled Over: Savory soups are among the multicultural offerings at Wolfe Cafe.

A Cupertino Village eatery dishes up rib-sticking East-West fusion fare

By Andrew X. Pham

WHERE, OH WHERE can you get a plate of spaghetti with grilled Korean beef short ribs or beef tongue with black pepper sauce? Give up? The place that offers these concoctions isn't the usual "East-meets-West" glamour restaurant where the ingredients are from the "East" and the interpretation is from the "West." It isn't quite an Eastern interpretation of Western dishes either. Rather, this is the sort of East-West amalgamation cuisine that was in vogue in Hong Kong and Taipei in the last decade, but is now standard fare.

Smartly decked out like a conservative teahouse, the Wolfe Cafe leans in the direction of a Hong Kong-Taipei cafeteria. There is a lot of a little of everything: curry, steaks, seafood, Thai chicken satay, escargot, kung pao chicken, ham-and-egg macaroni, chow mein, French onion soup, Russian borscht and Chinese hot-and-sour soup. The temptation to get fried Cornish hen for $12.95 (full dinner, soup, salad, etc.) may be great, but be forewarned that as much as Chinese dislike America's bastardized Chinese cuisine, Western palates may react in a similar fashion to some of the interpretations here. A few dishes here have a 1960s Betty Crocker flavor to them. Others are a little outlandish by comparison. Take, for instance, "Sizzling Filet Mignon Cube" ($14.95). Who would have thought of chopping up a filet mignon, much less serving it sizzling on a heated iron platter.

The funny thing is that the best picks on the menu are actually the bargain-priced plates (lunch around $5, dinner roughly $6). And it is this part of the menu that draws a big Asian student crowd. The flavors tend to be straightforward, rendered with adeptly manned woks. All are served with soup of the day and a choice of spaghetti or steamed rice. We recommend the latter because the pasta is often overcooked.

As far as these lunch and dinner plates are concerned, there are no significant surprises. Kung pao chicken ($4.75) is exactly what one might expect it to be: chile hotness seared onto the chicken pieces and loaded with peanuts. We also like the hot braised bean curd ($4.75) and the sliced fish with hot bean sauce ($5.75), which is actually a very generous portion of catfish panned with a thick, spicy sauce. Next time, we'd ask them to heap on more fermented soybeans.

We were going to bill this as the home of bargain soufflés, but the dish wasn't available the times we ate there. Anyone who has tried one of these $3.95 soufflés (Grand Marnier, chocolate or vanilla), let us know what you think (email me; address above). For now, chalk up Wolfe Cafe as a bargain destination for Hong Kong-Taipei cafeteria fare.

Wolfe Cafe is located in Cupertino Village Shopping Center on the corner of Homestead Avenue and Wolfe Road, 10851 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino (408/777-9398).

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From the Dec. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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