Paon tasting room now a wine bistro and piano bar

Owners Mayur Pavagadhi and Steve Barr share a glass of wine in the newly opened Paon Wine Bar & Bistro in Carlsbad. The restaurant opened July 1 in the former Paon tasting room and bottle shop.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Paon Wine Bar & Bistro offers a seasonal menu and live music at a slightly lower price than nearby sister restaurant


Over the past decade, visitors to the Paon tasting room in Carlsbad could sample sips from the shop’s 650-wine inventory and buy a bottle to take home, but there were two things they couldn’t do — order a full glass of wine or have a meal to enjoy it with.

That changed on July 1, when owners Mayur Pavaghadi and Steve Barr reinvented the 1,025-square-foot shop on Carlsbad Village Drive as the new Paon Wine Bar & Bistro. The venue still sells wines by the bottle and it offers wine tasting flights that change every week. But now it also serves 30 wines by the glass, a lighter menu designed for wine pairings, and in the near future it will add live piano entertainment on weekend nights.

Barr said the decision to apply for a new license that allowed full food and wine service was made as the result of numerous customer requests over the years.

Softshell crab salad, a seasonal dish at the newly opened Paon Wine Bar & Bistro in Carlsbad. It opened on July 1.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Paon Wine Bistro is the sister eatery of Paon Restaurant, a 4,000-square-foot fine dining restaurant just around the corner on Roosevelt Street. They share the same kitchen, wine cellar and chef, David Gallardo, who has cooked at Paon Restaurant since it opened in August 2009.

To avoid confusion, it was important to Barr and Pavagadhi to make the two venues distinct in style, menu and mood.

“Since the focus of the bistro is on the wines, the portions of the food will be smaller and lower priced than at Paon,” Barr said. “It’s designed as an alternative to the full-blown dining experience at Paon.”

Paon’s wine director Katie Edgecombe said that the larger Paon Restaurant serves a broader range of dining customers, so its wines sold by the glass are the more familiar “juicy, fruity California” varieties that appeal to most wine-drinkers. But in the new 40-seat Paon Bistro, the wine-by-the-glass selection is more adventurous and international for more-curious wine aficionados.

Katie Edgecombe, wine director at newly opened Paon Wine Bar & Bistro in Carlsbad. It opened on July 1.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Among her favorite wine selections in the bistro are a 2018 Vinho Verde rosé from Portugal at $10 a glass, a 2016 Newton unfiltered cabernet at $24 a glass and Krug 166th Edition Grande Cuvee Champagne at $40 a glass.

With more ambitious wines, chef Gallardo said he could be more creative with his bistro menu. For example, seafood dishes are usually paired with white wines, but the bistro’s Maine diver scallops is served with an earthy black truffle risotto so it can be paired with both white and red wines.

The bistro menu features typical wine bar bites such as charcuterie, cheese and olive plates starting at $10. There are several salads topped with lamb, smoked salmon and softshell crab in the $15 to $19 range. And there are heavier entrees including pan-roasted flat iron pork, duck confit, Angus rib eye steak and truffle ricotta cheese ravioli, ranging from $16.50 to $32. Gallardo’s daily specials change from week to week based on the wines Edgecombe is featuring at the time.

Maine diver scallops with black truffle risotto, one of the seasonal dishes on the menu at Paon Wine Bar & Bistro, which opened July 1 in Carlsbad.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Although food and, soon, entertainment are now a part of the mix, wine tasting will remain the mainstay at the Paon Bistro. Edgecombe, who started her wine career four years ago at Pavagadhi and Barr’s Witch Creek Winery in Carlsbad, described her position as “the candyland of wine jobs” because of the depth of Paon’s wine cellar. For the fourth year in a row, Paon’s wine list was recently awarded the Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence.

Edgecombe said she will offer two wine education programs each month at the bistro and she also hosts monthly tastings for members of the 1-year-old Paon Wine Club. The next club tasting is on Aug. 5 and will feature 20 wines.

Paon Wine Bar & Bistro

Hours: 4 p.m. to close Mondays-Thursdays. 3 p.m. to close Fridays. 1 p.m. to close Saturdays and Sundays.
Where: 560 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad
Phone: (760) 729-7377

The interior of new Paon Wine Bar & Bistro in Carlsbad. It opened on July 1.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)