Chef Justin Perez has jumped through a lot of hoops in recent years—a series of unfortunate circumstances that Perez said are behind him at last. For now, every ounce of Perez’s focus is directed at his new vision for fine dining, Justin’s Appetite for Expression.

The restaurant, four years in the making, just had its public opening on March 5. It has been an intensive project for Perez and his partner, Wesley Byers. Located on Homestead Road in Santa Clara, the restaurant is, according to Perez, a meeting of the quality of fine dining with the casualness and price of less-expensive restaurants.

However, with Perez at the helm, the bar for food quality has been set high. The seasonally rotating menu will feature items that would please any foodie, such as gourmet pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens, cabernet-braised osso bucco and seared duck breast. And yet, there isn’t a plate over $35. “It’s not a stuffy restaurant,” Perez says. “I’m crossing the fine dining world with the Cheesecake Factory world—and bringing them together [to get] the fun atmosphere with the higher-end quality.”

Perez was excited to show off the restaurant’s bar, which will feature various microbrews on tap and hand-picked wines from local vintners, as well as a quality collection of spirits and wines offered by the glass. Perez happily noted that while much went into designing the high-quality bar, no cocktail would cost more than $10: “I want you to come back. I want you to have more than one and I want you to enjoy yourself.” A touch of Perez creativity: the adjustable colored lighting that decorates the bar and other parts of the restaurant will change according to the day and mood of the restaurant.

Perez was also deeply involved in the design of the interior, reflecting the “expression” aspect of the restaurant’s name. In the lobby, guests are greeted by items of cooking nostalgia, such as an old scale and collections of vintage cookbooks resting on shelves. The wine cellar and bar were also projects to which Perez, Byers and Byers’ father all contributed heavily. Byers’ father constructed the specialized wine rack that holds the bottles neck-side-down. A board holding various antique bottle openers from Perez’s late father’s collection hangs outside the cellar door for decoration. After the grand opening, Perez said there will be additions to look forward to, such as a rooftop garden and an outside patio that will include a small cafe.

Justin’s Appetite for Expression
1285 Homestead Road, Santa Clara; 408.638.5300

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