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First Look: Realm of 52 Remedies

Wildly imaginative speakeasy cements the arrival of design to San Diego’s Asian food haven


The restaurant, Common Theory, is perfectly acceptable now. But through a back door lay the future in the form of an “apothecary”—a starkly white, ascetic portal of sorts. The recipes for 52 ancient remedies are imprinted in Chinese script on the frosted glass door in front of you. Press your hand on a silver-toned character on that door, and it slides to reveal dangling lotus tendrils and beloved Buddhist deity, Quan Yin. Follow Quan down the corridor lit by Chinese steamer pots transformed into lanterns, and you finally reach a darkly lit, amber-hued room hung with giant Asian beads, tapestries, and metal sculptures in the shape of storm clouds. There are simple, humble materials next to elaborate, ornate art pieces. Humble people are welcome, as are ornate people. Your remedy is ready for you at the bar.

Called Realm of 52 Remedies, it’s the post-apocalyptic fugue of Michael Soriano (Onairos Design), one of San Diego’s most fantastical designers and known drinker of the Burning Man life Kool-Aid. Common Theory co-owner Cris Liang commissioned him to create this elaborately conceptual time warp, a stroll through the blank modernism of Blade Runner and into the vision-quest antiquity of Ki-duk Kim’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring.

The design trend along Convoy has been percolating for a while, with places like RakiRaki and Hidden Fish. Woods have gotten nicer. Art has gotten bolder. Furniture has gotten pleasantly weirder. 52 Remedies puts an exclamation point on the trend. The neighborhood has long been the place to find the largest, wildly diverse collection of Asian food, often cooked by natives of each country. But design and art were not part of the experience. The strip mall restaurants were just basic dining boxes, mostly because mom and pops spent their life savings on food. Hiring some frilly aesthete to decorate walls and seats seemed like crazy talk. But the new generation has dined globally and locally at places where the design and art and feel of the room is as important as the quality of the food. And they’re bringing it home.

Located inside Common Theory, Realm will serve small bites from around the globe using Asian ingredients, as well as craft cocktails. It will be open daily to the public December 10 (5pm to 2am daily). Reservations are highly recommended, but walk-ins welcome in the unlikely case that it’s not packed.

Enough talk. Take a look inside.

4805 Convoy Street


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