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Our House serves wholesome twists on favorites

by Katherine Zhang, Winged Post STEM Editor

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The gloss on the bare wooden tables reflects the dim glow of the hanging bar lights above, complementing the pumpkin-orange walls of San Jose’s Our House. Plants are a motif in the restaurant — a vine-like succulent lies beside a tray of gooey, freshly baked cookies, while a blooming cactus sits on each table. Their greens blend in with the warm, earthy palette, and homey aroma of spices and grilling meat, driving home Our House’s central message: its dedication to local, seasonal and unprocessed food.

Katherine Zhang
Rather than branding itself as Mediterranean, Asian, or American, Our House prefers to draw on all different types of cuisine to create a fusion of different tastes.

Ensconced in a corner of Park Avenue where towering palm trees sway over the looming Tech Museum and the expansive plaza of the San Jose Performing Arts Center, Our House is, at first glance, easy to miss. But those who wander into the double glass doors will find food that is healthy, locally sourced and delicious and a welcoming, cozy atmosphere that puts customers first.

Though Our House doesn’t follow a traditional waiter system — servers only bring food and clean up — their service is friendly and accommodating enough to make customers feel well-attended. It’s also unobtrusive, letting customers focus on enjoying themselves and their food. Each person is free to sit wherever they want, whether it be at a cozy, two-person booth or a four-person table right outside that faces the street.

In terms of its food, Our House has four main values: local, organic, seasonal and sustainable. Each word is lettered into the walls, a reminder to customers of why it stands out from our ever-prevalent fast food, grab-and-go cuisine. Our House prides itself on being a part of the “slow food” movement, a counterpart to fast food that promotes local food and traditional cooking and encourages consumers to think about where their food comes from.

Rather than branding itself as uniquely Mediterranean, Asian, or American, Our House prefers to draw on all different types of cuisine to create a fusion of different tastes. In one sitting, one could order a greek salad, french fries with foie gras, a Cuban-inspired pork belly burger and short ribs with hoisin sauce.”

In the case of Our House, “slow food” comes in the form of non-GMO, antibiotic-free, organic and locally farmed produce, and they aren’t afraid to show their pride in their values. A chalkboard map of its local vendors adorns one wall, next to block letters that spell out the word “local.” The menu specifically lists where the beef used in its burgers come from and goes out of its way to ensure that other meats are hormone- and antibiotic-free.

Skeptics point out that there is not yet any definitive proof that organic food tastes better. But whether it’s the careful attention that a small family business can give to its food or the local, fresh produce, each entree has a kind of richness and flavor that no fast food restaurant could ever have.

Part of this charm is the uniquely eclectic menu, which combines influences from all over the world. Rather than branding itself as uniquely Mediterranean, Asian, or American, Our House prefers to draw on all different types of cuisine to create a fusion of different tastes. In one sitting, one could order a greek salad, french fries with foie gras, a Cuban-inspired pork belly burger and short ribs with hoisin sauce.

On top of that, the menu rotates seasonally based on what produce is available from each local vendor, so customers can find different twists on each menu item when a new season comes around.

Strikingly, though, even the dishes that aren’t necessarily unique also have their own defining characteristics. There are hundreds of other places in San Jose where one could buy a burger and fries. But Our House takes traditional foods and puts its own spin on it. Served on a wooden platter, the Wagyu Burger boasts a patty that is juicy and soft, a far cry from the stereotypically greasy burger patty. Blended with a sweet, soft bun, a sour, tangy sauce, sweet red onions and crunchy, fresh bibb lettuce, this burger is definitely the new take on American food that customers will look for when they come to Our House.

Katherine Zhang
A dish of grilled ribs is served with basmati rice and broccolini on the side.

The sweet potato fries are another example — crunchy on the outside and yet impossibly soft on the inside, they are served with a sauce that looks like ketchup but explodes with the flavors of cumin and coriander and provides a kick that contrasts with the sweetness of the fries. Every bite, whether the dish is a fusion of different cuisines or a new take on a traditional entree, is a surprise.

Our House serves its purpose both as a restaurant and as an advocate for locally produced slow food. Not only is each dish well-prepared, rich and flavorful, but the pro-local, pro-health message that it sends rings clear with each bite.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on February 5, 2018.

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Our House serves wholesome twists on favorites