A flight of bubbles
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Encore Champagne Bar

531 F Street, Downtown San Diego

What a cool idea is Encore Champagne Bar. Decked out in white leather and crystal chandeliers, it has a vaguely Russian sensibility; the kind of cheesy opulence that’s earnest, retro, fun, and attractive all at once. Nestled amidst the clubs and restaurants in Downtown, it’s a cool balance between the two, a neither-nor space suitable for a proper dinner or a bit of social drinking.

Bubbly wines (true Champagne and otherwise) populate the menu with bottlings from $30 all the way up to a $2000 bottle of Krug. The bar will float some sparkling wine over specialty cocktails, or pour a glass of beer for the wineless. Semi-affordable sparkling wine flights provide the chance to sample a few different styles. Reportedly, the place is actually selling lots of champagne.

Salmon tartare

Notably, Encore provides caviar service. Salted fish roe certainly isn’t for everyone, but the chance to shell out $250 on a little serving of Osetra caviar doesn’t always come up, and the ambiance is really perfect for it, if you’re feeling super spendy. Rogue caviar fans often call Osetra the secretly superior caviar, as opposed to the more expensive Beluga, but that’s a contentious issue, and really a subject of personal taste.

The regular dinner menu looks promising, but needs to be explored more in-depth at a later date. For now, Encore’s biggest charm is the late-night Happy Hour menu. Served 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, this is a great chance to sneak in a little late-night snack and a tipple. The drink specials are cheap but limited. It’s the snacks that catch attention.

Stuffed piquillo peppers

Salmon tartare ($7.50 during Happy Hour) is both generous and thoughtfully plated at that price. Chopped, blended, and seasoned nicely, the mixture of smoked fish, creme fraiche, and capers is quite the pleasant mouthful.

So too for a dish of piquillo peppers stuffed with chopped tuna. Underseasoned on their own, the peppers and fish get a big kick from the garlicky Romesco sauce, and end up being a fine dish to go with the bubbles.

It seems like Encore’s kitchen is thoughtful with its plating and preparations, and that the menu plays well to light-duty snacking and hangout time. Well-trained staff only serve to sweeten the deal, and the prognosis for Encore is very bright indeed.

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