Opened in January 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, bellyrub is a Korean-South American fusion restaurant that offers healthy, responsibly sourced salads and plates. The Smoke Signal decided to go sample some of their signature plates and salads a few months after their opening.
Located in Santa Clara’s bustling Rivermark Village, bellyrub is surrounded by a variety of shopping and dining options from mom-and-pop dessert shops to salons. Despite not offering indoor dining, there were several tables placed outside for outdoor dining. However, with only three cramped tables spread out near the busy road of cars and pedestrians, the outdoor environment falls short of pleasant. The restaurant’s spacious interior was filled with modern designs equipped with bold colors and abstract artwork that plasters the glass walls, making the dining experience visually appealing as well as tasty. As a precautionary safety measure against the COVID-19 pandemic, bellyrub’s interior is also well-ventilated and only permits three customers inside at any one time.
Due to the restaurant’s lack of indoor dining, bellyrub’s business model is styled like a typical fast-food joint, and orders are taken at a booth near the entrance of the store. After ordering, customers can wait outside at one of the outdoor tables, with most dishes arriving within 15 to 20 minutes. bellyrub staff was also helpful and efficient as the counter staff managed a touch-screen ordering service, and the hosts visited tables outside to periodically check in on dinner. The modern atmosphere of the restaurant, coupled with the ease of dining and the quick service, make a meal at bellyrub a pleasurable experience.
With most plates costing $13.95 and salads starting at $11.95, bellyrub is definitely not a cheap meal. However, the sizable portions and unique menu offerings more than make up for this. Each plate comes with rice topped with a protein of your choice, accompanied by a side salad, adding up to a generous portion that can last for multiple meals to-go. While the price tag may be steeper than the typical fast-food joints in the Rivermark Village, like Chipotle and Jersey Mike’s Subs, bellyrub’s attention to “healthy fine dining” through partnering with local family-owned vendors and using responsibly-sourced packaging materials shines through, making the overall dining experience satisfying in more ways than one.
bellyrub offers two main ordering options, salads and plates, along with an assortment of fusion side dishes incorporating aspects of Korean and South American cuisine. The Blissful Salad was a highlight of the meal, featuring three different varieties of seasonal radishes that were complemented by the chef’s choice of rice vinaigrette dressing. The restaurant’s namesake plate, the Bellyrub plate, did not disappoint; delicious pieces of smoked pork belly paired with rice were perfectly set off by a side of citrus salad that lent a much-needed acidity to the fatty meat. However, the prepackaged refrigerated drinks fell somewhat flat, with the Waku, a type of South American tea, lacking a strong flavor. Overall, though, bellyrub’s menu offers a selection of unique fusion combinations you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.
Incorporating aspects of both Korean and South American cuisine, bellyrub is an up-and-coming new restaurant with something special to offer the Bay Area. With an enjoyable ambience, a distinctive menu, and a commitment to sustainable eating, it’s sure to become your new favorite joint.