Chinatown beckons with bargain bodywork. But don’t fall for the brightest neon banner announcing “reflexology” and “acupressure”. Go straight to the misleadingly named Foot Heaven (where the focus is mostly on massage, not reflexology) on Pell Street, just across the street from Joe’s Shanghai. Foot Heaven opened about three years ago, so it’s less grotty and a tad more, um, “spa-inspired” (think plastic flowers and Barbra Streisand Muzak) than other Chinatown stalwarts.
It’s bare bones, but there’s absolutely zero ick factor. Massages take place in a clean curtained room, although the walls don’t extend to the ceiling, so occasionally I overheard hushed conversations in Cantonese and Fuganese. The barely-cushioned massage tables, covered in clean towels, are a far cry from the cosseting ones at the Mandarin Oriental Spa, but the total cost of a Foot Heaven massage—$45 for an hour—is less than a tip at the MO. And instead of the transporting scent of frangipani oil, here you’ll recognize the smell of baby oil. (We suggest toting your own massage oil.) But the massage itself inspires repeat visits. Anna, my therapist, spent an hour diligently unknotting my shoulders and neck. Her bag of tricks included compression and kneading, as well as a percussive clap clap clap (even on my head), and some serious acupressure on my feet and scalp. After an hour, I felt so relaxed that I stayed on the table for another 15 minutes (ten dollars additional). But the prices are cheaper than a corner nail salon and the massages infinitely better.
Foot Heaven, 16 Pell Street, btwn Bowery and Doyers, 212-962-6588 (no website).
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