Monday, March 18, 2024

Convoy Music Bar (San Diego, CA)

Convoy Music Bar
4646 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Mon 03/18/2024, 06:00p-08:35p

Convoy Music Bar Exterior

Back in February, I had a fantastic yakitori meal over at Torien in New York. While researching it for my write-up, I discovered that the restaurant was created in partnership with the San Diego-based Shōwa Hospitality. I then found out that Showa also operates Convoy Music Bar in Kearny Mesa, a jazz kissa-inspired spot that opened in May 2022. Given that CMB wasn't too far from my hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter, I decided to give the cocktail bar a shot.

Convoy Music Bar Interior
CMB occupies half of a space that was previously Cauldron Ice Cream, and Nancy's Floral Design before that (and yes, you have to enter through the rear). It's a narrow, cozy, classy room, and given the place's Japanese listening bar inspiration, there's also a proper sound system, one based on vintage, Kenrick Sound-rebuilt JBL speakers, driven by a McIntosh MC462 stereo amplifier. Unfortunately, due to liquor license issues, the bar is currently not allowed to play vinyl (as it's considered "live entertainment"), but the team is working on securing the proper permits, so hopefully they'll be able to spin some records soon enough (they apparently have a collection of over 2,500).

Convoy Music Bar Cocktail List Convoy Music Bar Cocktail List / Mocktail List / Beer List / Wine List Convoy Music Bar Bar Bites and Snacks Menu Convoy Music Bar Spirits List: Introduction Convoy Music Bar Spirits List: Whisky-Japanese
Convoy Music Bar Spirits List: Whisky-Scotch, Whisk(e)y-International, Whiskey-Irish Convoy Music Bar Spirits List: Whiskey-American, Gin Convoy Music Bar Spirits List: R(h)um, Tequila Convoy Music Bar Spirits List: Mezcal Convoy Music Bar Aperitif Information
Here we see Convoy's cocktail list, which, from what I understand, is work of bartenders Dylan Duncan McRae (Bake Shop, Hundred Proof, Pagan Idol) and Dean Pryor (Madison, Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar, The Gorbals). Also pictured is the bar's selection of spirits and food (which I imagine is made next door at The Taco Stand, another Showa property). Click for larger versions.

ROTATING STARTER COCKTAIL [$11.00] | The opening note to your flavor symphony. Have a mini cocktail while you explore our offerings.
I successfully made my way through seven drinks tonight, and this "introductory" libation combined a wonderful sherry-fueled smoke and umami with a bevy of fruity, almost tea-like notes. A promising start for sure.

SOURDOUGH BIKINI [$14.00] | beef salami & sun dried tomato / with kettle chips and wasabi tartar sauce
I was looking to enjoy a proper dinner here, so I ordered CMB's take on Barcelona's iconic bikini sandwich. The salty, savory salami made a bunch of sense with the overt tartness of the tomatoes, while the toasty bread worked to tone things down. Those kettle-cooked chips were also on point, and were great with a dab of tartar.

DIAMONDS FOR CASH [$17.00] | toasted rice, almond, orange peels, rose, citrus, Jamaican rum, Amontillado sherry, crushed ice, radiant & playful
This Mai Tai-inspired cocktail was also to my liking thanks to its smoky, nutty base, juxtaposed against citrus and refreshing mint, with the finish going in a decidedly oxidative direction.

ELYSIUM [$19.00] | brown butter Rum, pandan leaf, maple, citrus, shortbread, decadent & bright
Given my penchant for pandan, I had a hard time resisting this next cocktail. I found it properly buttery up front, which led to the tang of citrus, then the warmth of pandan on the back end, commixed with sugary maple.

HACKLEBACK STURGEON CAVIAR [$63.07] | Sustainable caviar process, tiny pancakes, kettle cooked chips, soured cream, lime zest + clean, oceanic, semi-sweet, small pearl, light pop
Hackleback caviar showed of a welcomed nuttiness to go along with its trademark brine. Unsurprisingly, the citrusy sour cream functioned as a very suitable foil to the roe, while those fluffy blinis and potato chips completed the equation.

VANNA WHITE GIN MARTINI [$19.00] | Japanese gin, shiso leaf, strawberry gin, dry vermouth, olive oil, elegant & strong
This cocktail came recommended by the staff, and turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. I got boatloads of fragrant strawberry up front, both on the nose and the palate, which coalesced perfectly with the botanicals from the gin. Add to that cooling notes and an overarching savoriness, as well as a finish that really highlighted the freshness of shiso. Superb--this might be the best cocktail I've had all year.

THE REGATTA [$19.00] | persimmon, toasted fig leaf, citrus, roasted almond, honey, vodka, friendship bracelet, vibrant & cozy
This was the first time I'd seen a friendship bracelet incorporated into a cocktail presentation, but I rather liked it, since it resulted in a better grip on the glass. I rather liked the actual drink itself, too, thanks to its delightful floral, fruity sweetness, backed up by plenty of lingering vanilla-like notes. And yes, I still have the bracelet.

SICHUAN CHILI CRISP SMOKED SALMON [$19.00] | lemon zest, cornichons, kettle cooked chips + Norwegian farm raised, light spice
Dense, smoky shards of salmon were paired with Fly By Jing's Sichuan chili crisp, though the spice level here was milder than I'd anticipated. The lemon was appreciated, as were the cornichons, while the potato chips were just as good as in the previous two dishes.

JAPANESE WHISKY BOULEVARDIER [$20.00] | spiced persimmon, black mission fig, lime oils, bianco bitter aperitif, dried bing cherry, slightly bitter & robust
This boulevardier variation might be the best I've encountered. The fig was expertly conveyed, and linked up swimmingly with the bitter, slightly oxidative elements in the cocktail, and I really enjoyed that cherry, too.

Chocolatey Chip Teddy Grahams + Shortbread
Convoy lacks a dessert menu, so I was provided a complimentary serving of Chocolatey Chip Teddy Grahams (from The Accomplice) and shortbread (from Elysium above) instead.

DOUBLE BIRD [$21.00] | Welcome tropical & savory to the dance, mezcal, sherry, pineapple, citrus, & dark chocolate balsamic, a delight the senses
My final cocktail was also a standout. The crux here was the back-and-forth between the pineapple and this nearly soy-like umami note and the oxidative qualities of sherry, accented by lingering cacao and the tang of balsamic. Very cool.

The Convoy Music Bar team pretty much hit it out of the park tonight. The drinks were superb, really doing a fantastic job blending fun, creativity, and sophistication, while service-wise, Adam and Christian took great care of me. In fact, I'd say that this was the best cocktail bar experience I've had in a while, so I'd definitely recommend CMB if you're a fellow fan of mixology.


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