Say Goodbye to Yesterday’s Pampering
by Nirmala Nataraj
So you’ve been around the block a few times: you’ve done the speedy 45-minute mani/pedi combo, you faithfully visit your neighborhood aesthetician every four weeks, and you’ve found the perfect massage therapist (one you’ve decided to keep a secret from even your dearest associates). In short, you have all your pampering bases covered. But even the most discriminating spa connoisseur could benefit from a one-stop place to indulge -- whether you want a quick lunchtime fix or an afternoon of luxury -- that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Muni accessibility doesn’t hurt, either. Mizu Spa is the new Mission Bay fixture that’s been drawing oodles of hipsters from all four corners of the city and beyond. What’s so great about it, you ask? Well, subtract the hoity-toity spa attitude, exorbitant menu pricing, and ladies who lunch set -- and you’re left with an oasis for minimalists everywhere. Mizu is a sanctuary that’s neither overly attention-grabbing nor chintzy. True to its name (“mizu” means water in Japanese), the spa, a storefront haven just off the Third Street Corridor, has an elemental, no-frills feel. Instead of trumpeting their wares (which include yummy products by Aromafloria, Jan Marina, and Diamancel) or busying up the place with distracting floral arrangements and other not-so-subtle aesthetic touches, the folks at Mizu prefer good old simplicity. The industrial-chic ambience extends to bare beams on the cathedral ceilings, as well as a couloir of smooth river stones separating two long rows of mani/pedi thrones. The sense of openness, as well as the absence of visual distractions, is a nice change from the opulent retreat atmosphere most spas strive for. In some ways, the space feels like a futuristic beauty lab. The mani/pedi thrones are creamy slabs of white, all parallel lines and edges, while the walls are outfitted with luminous pale-blue curtains that add a slight softness to the symmetry. The employees are uniformed in black, and mani/pedi whirlpools have been replaced with sanitized foot bowls lined with disposable tray liners. Sure, the effect is a little colder than your typical neighborhood retreat, but that’s what makes it so great. It’s the kind of place where the therapists get right down to business without wasting words, and where efficiency is wedded to incredible indulgence. The spa’s customized skin, body, and nail treatments are also pretty impressive, considering there are only three treatment rooms in addition to the colossal mani/pedi lounge that greets you at the entrance. Popular spa options include the caviar facial (a firming/toning/hydrating treatment for the age-defying crowd), aromatherapy body wraps, hot stone massage, and an impressive array of selections for gentlemen who’d rather do without the girlie essential oils. You can also opt for a whole medley of eastern treats, like Shiatsu (a deep-tissue massage that helps unblock energy channels along the body) and Thai massage (a modality that involves yoga stretches and acupressure), both of which you get fully clothed. My fiancé and I opt for a customized couples massage. Because the massage room is pretty diminutive, aside from just a wee bit of legroom, customers shouldn’t expect any of the sometimes superfluous but always welcome amenities—like downy robes or lockers to store your stuff. In addition, room dividers don’t quite reach the ceiling; so while you’re getting rubbed down, expect to be distracted by a bit of noise from foot traffic and visitors. All the same, everything added up to only a minor inconvenience for us, and my fiancé and I agreed that having a talented therapist go to town on your knotty limbs is worth a little clamor from the outside world. If you think nothing can be more irresistible than warm, oil-slicked stones kneading your pressure points, the good news is that Mizu’s popular massage option also extends to its most touted mani/pedi option. While the signature pedicure involves having your tootsies massaged and exfoliated with a diamond scrub, the hot stone pedicure includes that, plus some delectable essential oils and a languorous hand and foot massage with warm river stones. My fiancé and I sit side by side on the white mani/pedi thrones, which are surprisingly comfy, given the addition of several silky pillows and a heated lavender neck wrap. Products from the Swedish skincare line Kerstin Florian are kneaded and polished simultaneously over our acquiescent hands and feet, and we’re regaled with a fluffy array of warm towels throughout. It’s my fiancé’s very first mani and pedi, so I wait with bated breath to see how he takes it. Forty-five minutes later, his hands and feet are blindingly shiny, and he sheepishly admits that getting this kind of service every once in a while is a delightful necessity for more than just the hardcore metrosexual. I’m triumphantly unsurprised. When it comes down to it, it’s hard not to trumpet the virtues of this unassuming sanctuary. Aside from the fact that our massage therapists and nail technicians took their sweet time with us (and I mean it -- we were there for about three good hours, and none of it was spent waiting, either), Mizu’s early bird special, which you can catch Tuesdays through Thursdays before 2 pm, gives clients the signature mani/pedi combo for just $45 and the classic one for $35, or nearly half off the regular price. My man and I leave our new favorite place hand in hand, bemused that there’s something we finally both agree on. Overall, Mizu offers practical yet luxurious services that girls looking to let off some steam and boys looking for some discreet beautifying will both appreciate. Theirs is a pared-down approach I can definitely raise my cup of green tea to.