Four years in the making, a no-expense-spared new restaurant and cocktail bar has finally landed in the coastal community of Bird Rock. Paradisaea is a dream project for La Jollans Eric and Zoe Kleinbub, who purchased the iconic “Piano Building” on La Jolla Boulevard, transforming the 4,500-square-foot space into the neighborhood’s largest-scale restaurant that may also help boost San Diego’s overall culinary draw.
Designed by Georgis & Mirgorodsky and named after a genus of exotic bird-of-paradise, Paradisaea is awash in color and custom pieces, comprising works from local artists that include the tiles that top each table and the large mural that dominates the 56-seat dining room.
Originally tapped to consult after spending 13 years with Eleven Madison Park and NoMad in New York City, where he served as executive pastry chef among other positions, culinary director Mark Welker tells Eater that he plans on staying with Paradisaea and in San Diego long-term, running the restaurant’s glassed-in kitchen alongside chef de cuisine Gabriel Bonis (Nine-Ten, Cowboy Star).
With a background in Michelin-starred dining, Welker is applying that training and expertise to a menu developed in collaboration with the Kleinbubs. Based on seasonal ingredients, the menu ranges from white sea bass crudo with Thai basil, finger lime, strawberries, and chile de arbol oil to summer squash with crispy sheep’s milk dumplings, pistachios, capers and mint, and pasture-raised roast chicken with seasonal greens, croutons, and chimichurri. This being San Diego, a burger is also a must: Paradisaea’s version, made with dry-aged beef, is served on a Portuguese muffin with optional sauce au poivre.
Presiding over the 24-seat bar, beverage director Dannika Underhill’s collection of classic and original drinks includes the Jewel, made with gentian, lemon, dragonfruit, jasmine, aquafaba, and a custom Plymouth-style gin from Seven Caves Spirits whose botanicals feature heirloom juniper, locally-grown citrus, and pink peppercorns, and the Dancing Bird, which blends cognac with green chartreuse, cacao, lime, pineapple, and spiced coconut and is served in a custom bird-of-paradise tiki mug. A bar-only food menu will be offered at 3 p.m., with live piano music featured during the pre-dinner cocktail hours. The team tells Eater that Sunday brunch will be added soon along with special Sunday suppers.
Set to open soon in an adjacent space will be Dodo Bird Donuts, a daytime cafe that will feature Dark Horse Coffee and Simple Beans Co., pulling from Welker’s extensive pastry experience for its menu of doughnuts in flavors like churro, horchata, and tres leches as well as soft-serve ice cream, banana bread, morning baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, and more.
Paradisaea, 5680 La Jolla Boulevard. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. on.