Perusing the latest issue of OC Weekly, you will come across an article sandwiched between the pages of their Summer Guide section (100 Reasons to be Ecstatic About Summer in the OC!). Imperial Health Spa, or Imperial Spa as it is alternately known, is a Korean-style retreat specializing in the Eastern philosophy of not only cleansing the body, but also cleansing the soul.

For $20 admission, you have access to the 32,000 square feet Romanesque facility featuring resort-style jacuzzis, steam chambers, a fitness room and special therapeutic saunas offering a variety of health benefits. Not surprisingly, there’s one just like it in Las Vegas. For an additional fee, you can order treatments like body scrubs, facials, deep tissue massages and accupressure therapy.

In the dressing quarters, you disrobe and store your belongings (especially dirty shoes) in a secure locker. From this point on, excluding the co-ed common space, you are expected to walk around as naked as the day you were born. A vigorous shower is mandatory before you can avail of any of the accommodations. It is seen as both an insult and a sign of disrespect for one to forgo this step.

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Soaking in the hot tub, you can relax until your pores are fully open and your skin has softened. Afterwards, utilize the various saunas such as Salt Brick, Red Clay Ball, Biolight and the igloo-like Ice Room in rotation to expel toxins of the skin. The time spent in each one of these bring out a deep sense of relaxation and well-being.

For $30 more, you can purchase an all over body scrub that is so much more than just exfoliation. The procedure is done with what look like scratchy, froggie baking mitts. An older woman, peculiarly costumed in a black lace bra set, has little mercy and is politely terse in her directives. Face down. Face up. Side. Side. Your bum is baby smooth and you are happy. An invigorating shampoo and a 10-minute facial and body massage follow.

Feeling rejuvenated, but depleted at the same time, you seek much needed sustenance. Connected to the co-ed communal area, you will find the Korean cafe adorned with obligatory photos of appetizing menu food items. If you are unfamiliar with Korean cuisine, these photos will save you from ordering an item not depicted. Proceed with caution or end up with a pile of insipid noodles in a soy milk bath and ice cubes staring back at you in an aluminum bowl. For real.

A sign states that the place is self-serve (meaning no one busses the table) and orders are placed and picked up through the kitchen window. A few of the dishes listed are bulgogi (grilled marinated beef), bibimbap (rice with vegetables and topped with a fried egg), a rice cake soup and a variety of noodles and galbi (braised short rib) stews. Most plates come with sides, or banchan, of kimchi, tiny brined fish, marinated bean sprouts and other Korean condiments. The popular and refreshing pat bing soo (shaved ice ladled with sweet delights) is the dessert of choice.

For two sawbucks, it’s impossible to find a more spontaneous, pampered way to spend your afternoon. Despite the huge language barrier with the staff, Imperial Health Spa makes for a well-deserved and luxurious treat any day of the week.

Imperial Health Spa Cafe: Korean Paradise in a Strip Mall.
$ (cafe only)
daily 7am-12am
1885 North Euclid Street
(714) 871-1500
Imperial Health Spa website

Corky Nepomuceno

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