Chef Ocean Orssten acknowledges his parents were hippies who happened to be living in Capitola at the time he was born. Hence his unusual first name.
But the chef with the water-themed moniker also knows the land equally well. He grew up in the Napa Valley, raising heritage breed pigs at age 12 and developed a love for agriculture.
Is it any wonder that by the time he was a young teen, he knew he wanted to be a chef?
After stints at Arcadia in San Jose, La Folie in San Francisco, and Campton Place restaurant in San Francisco, Orssten took over the helm at Citrus at the Valencia Hotel in San Jose’s Santana Row in 2011.
It’s a restaurant I’ve longed wish more people would find out about. You have to know it’s there, as it’s not at visible at street level as all the other eateries at Santana Row. Instead, you have to take an elevator up to the third floor to get to it. But that trek rewards you once you arrive with a tucked away, intimate dining room that feels cloistered from the hubbub of the rest of the retail-residential center around it.
Recently, I was invited in as a guest to try Orssten’s recently revamped menu. There’s the expected rib eye and flatiron steak. But also offerings you don’t expect. Like the Jamaican curry goat arepas ($14). The stewed goat was tender and full of flavor atop the soft corn arepas. The poblano creme fraiche added a smoky, creamy heat, though, there may have been too much of it on the plate.