Open since October, Voltaire Coffee House is a lovely spot for Francophiles and coffee addicts. The oh-so-French strains of a concertina greeted us as we entered the spacious, Zen-like space. Big tables, a window counter, sidewalk seating and free Wi-Fi make for an open, tranquil place to sit with coffee, snack and a laptop.
Beautifully decorated with cathedral ceilings and a midnight-teal wall on one side adorned with a huge wrought-iron clock suggests shades of the Eiffel Tower. So elegant. And practical: they also validate parking.
Owner Christine Kim is a licensed Q-grader who has passed several tests of sensory acuity in coffee tasting (and writes about coffee in Korean). She named the cafe after the French Enlightenment figure, Voltaire, because he drank 40 cups a day. (Note: not recommended) Besides the usual macchiato, flat whites and espressos, their 25 beverage choices include unique selections such as the Nutella Latte ($4.50) and the Spanish Latte ($4.50). To my surprise (I’m a Nutella fan), I preferred the Spanish Latte. Almost a dessert, it involved steamed sweetened condensed milk.
The highest note was the pour-over. An Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Konga ($5) stood out. Normally, I need milk and lots of it, but this cup went down smoothly with no additions. If you’re going to splurge on coffee, splurge on this!
Food here is takeaway for those on the go, and they offered three focaccia sandwiches in a box (turkey, chicken and pesto). The tasty chicken focaccia featured thick slices of organic turkey with Swiss cheese, sundried tomato, and crisp organic lettuce. Though the bread was slightly dry, the sandwich was still very satisfying. The display case also offered an array of large desserts baked in-house. We tried a coconut whipped cream cake ($5.95): a fresh, tri-layered sponge cake with lots of smooth custard, a thin spread of apricot jam, and big flakes of coconut on the outside. Their carrot cake and cookies also looked good.
Another treat we liked was a small organic Belgian liege waffle served like toast with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar ($3.50): chewy and dense with a crispy outside. My favorite was the exquisitely fresh croissant ($3.50) made with 100 percent butter. When I bit into the crust there was that wonderful “give” of fresh yeast bread. Those on a budget might try their day-old pastries at half price. The chocolate croissant ($1.75) was still quite nice.
Voltaire Coffee House
360 S Market St #80, San Jose.