I did really well when I visited Kanazawa as part of the first of this year’s two Japanese trips. I’d chosen my hotel largely for its proximity to the castle (which I could see from my window), little realising that it was surrounded by a clutch of excellent coffee shops, one of which, Curio Espresso and Vintage Design, was visible from the other side of the hotel.
I was originally put on to Curio by Happy Cow, a site for finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants, which resulted in my heading to Curio for breakfast on my second day in Kanazawa. I then discovered that it had excellent coffee, serving an espresso-based menu using a bespoke house-blend from Kanazawa roaster Hiroyuki Arinobu of Ally Caffe. There’s also beer and wine for those so inclined.
Run by married couple Sol (Seattle) and Yuko (Kanazawa), Curio Espresso and Vintage Design is a friendly, welcoming place, beloved by locals and visitors alike. The food and coffee have a definite Seattle influence, while the vintage design part of the name (along with the “Curio” of the title) come from the décor, full of vintage items originally bought by Sol and Yuko to furnish their home!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Curio Espresso and Vintage Design was literally across the road from my hotel, the road in question being one of the main highways running through Kanazawa, connecting the castle district with the railway station. The café is in Yasuecho, a neighbourhood of quiet, pedestrianised streets. Occupying the ground floor of a small, two-storey building, Curio has broad, glass double doors slightly inset and offset from centre, flanked by a narrow window on the left and a much broader one on the right, which leaves room for a garden bench on the pavement under the window.
The spacious interior gives you the impression of having travelled both across the Pacific to North America as well as back in time, the walls lined with various vintage curios and small slices of Americana, the overall effect being elegant rather than kitsch. There’s a wide variety of seating, starting with a three-person window bar to the right of the door, followed, along the right-hand wall, by two four-person tables with chairs. Meanwhile, directly ahead of the door, in the middle of the room, is a square, four-person table with stools, while off to the left is a larger, eight-person version. Beyond this, against the left-hand wall, is a three-person sofa with a glass-topped chest acting as a coffee table.
There’s more seating at the back, on the left-hand side, while to the right is the counter, although since Curio offers table service, there’s no particular reason to go up here (other than to admire the various fixtures and fittings, such as the coffee menu, tinned tiling on the walls and the awesome vintage till). The seating consists of a three-person bar, the chairs with their backs to the window at the front, and, beyond that, a single, two-person table in the back, left-hand corner.
Sol and Yuko spend several years in Sol’s hometown of Seattle, before moving to Yuko’s hometown of Kanazawa in 2013, Curio opening a year later in 2014. All the vintage items are theirs, originally bought to furnish their home. There are far too many to list, and part of the joy is wandering around exploring it for yourself (see if you can spot my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, on the eclectically stocked bookshelves). For me, a definite highlight is the 1943 mechanical cash register from 1943. This still works and, if Sol is around, ask him to tell you the story of how he came to purchase it.
Curio has an American-inspired menu which is both vegetarian and vegan friendly while still catering to meat-eaters. There are various sandwiches and dishes such as the quinoa plate, along with a selection of cakes and pastries. I’d come for a late breakfast, selecting the vegetarian sandwich, which is a sandwich in the American sense (ie like a burger). I was rather hungry by this point, so practically inhaled it, which meant that I wasn’t really paying attention. All I can tell you is that it was very tasty!
I followed this with an espresso, made with the bespoke house-blend, roasted by Ally Caffe (which also roasts for Blue Monday). Here I was more measured, selecting a ristretto (the other option was a lungo) which was lovely, a well-balanced shot with a pleasing touch of acidity that went down a treat!
December 2019: Curio Espresso and Vintage Design was a runner-up for the 2019 Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.
|1-13 YASUECHO • KANAZAWA • ISHIKAWA • 920-0854 • JAPAN|
|www.facebook.com/CurioEspresso||+81 (0) 76-231-5543|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Ally Caffe (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||CLOSED||Seating||Tables, Sofa, Bar, Window-Bar; Bench (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:00||Cards||Cash Only|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||28th August 2019|
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