Scorpio Coffee, which opened last summer on 16th Street in midtown, is quickly emerging as the go-to destination for discerning caffeinistas. We think we know why.
Scorpio’s minimalist interior exudes an unexpected warmth thanks to walls clad with vertical slats of white oak—a look that is evocative of classic Japanese design. (The building’s awning denotes the shop’s name in both English and Japanese, a nod to the influence of Japanese-style coffeeshops that owner Sam Balean worked in while living in Taiwan.) Balean, who describes himself as “a sucker for natural wood and stone,” purposefully kept the space relatively free of adornment. “I don’t want the surroundings to distract people from the coffee and the food.”
Balean is a coffeehouse veteran who proudly sweats the small stuff. “In Asia, they are very specific about the little details of everything, whether it is driving or cooking or music, and that made me the barista I am today,” he explains. At Scorpio, this translates to superb beverages crafted with precision. “Some people eyeball it, but we pay attention to everything: the temperature of the water, the grind size, the weight, the way we pour, the texture, the ratio.” That’s not to say the folks at Scorpio take themselves too seriously. The service here is pleasantly unpretentious.
Scorpio’s concise food-and-drink selection is long on quality. The seasonal food menu, which was developed by chef Chris Barnum-Dann of Localis, reflects Balean’s desire for small dishes that would “be approachable to all cultures, not just Asian culture or Western culture.” Winners include pear toast—pear preserve, sliced pear, mascarpone and maple-ricotta atop Japanese milk bread—and a hearty breakfast bowl featuring roasted potatoes, a 5-minute egg, Korean soubise and pea tendrils. Classic pours are done well at Scorpio, but the excellent specialty drinks like a refreshing espresso tonic and ceremonial matcha (sourced from Kagoshima, Japan) really steal the show. 1905 16th St.; (916) 822-4241