The subject of the best shave ice is a hot topic in Hawaii. For years on Oahu, the faithful have been heading to the North Shore to Matsumoto’s (and Aoki’s next door). Even busloads of Japanese tourists stop by there to pay homage. We went there last year and made it a point to stop in Haleiwa. But, there have been those who make the claim that Waiola Shave Ice in Honolulu, within walking distance of Waikiki, makes a superior product, mainly because of the very fine, powdery shave ice. Matsumoto’s has a slightly grainier ice. So, in the interest of the debate, we headed over to Waiola to decide for ourselves. We didn’t know it at the time, but we also made it over to Matsumoto’s later in our trip.
My wife’s ice was topped with lychee and guava syrups and condensed milk, mine with POG (passion fruit, orange and guava) and vanilla ice cream underneath. (As at most shave ice places, you can also add kintoki and mochi balls.) The problem with ice this fine is the melting factor–things will get pretty slushy and sloppy if the weather is too warm, or the syrups aren’t cold enough. Sure enough, as quickly as the syrup was poured, the cone of ice began to slump slightly (see photo above). The verdict was that I liked Waiola better than Matsumoto’s; today my wife liked them both as being equally superior in their own right, but later (after going to Matsumoto’s) agreed that Waiola is better. The ice is indeed finer, softer, almost fluffy in texture. Because ice cream is so cold, the shave ice closest to the ice cream will solidify and create these crunchy granules at the bottom, so the faster you eat the shave ice, mo betta.
A few other comparisons. Waiola has a few more toppings–li hing mui powder, lilikoi cream, Hershey’s chocolate, all 50 cents extra. You can also order (for 50 cents) li hing mui seeds. Other variations at Waiola include an azuki bowl (shave ice on ice cream, topped with condensed milk, mochi balls and kintoki), ice cream bowl (a bowl of shave ice with three scoops of ice cream on the side and one on top), sundae shave ice (ice cream topped with shave ice, then poured over with Hershey’s chocolate syrup), custard bowl (shave ice topped with flan), mocha bowl (shave ice topped with what might be Starbuck’s mocha mix), each at $4.50. To me, these are excesses that detract from the main event–plain and simple shave ice.
Waiola Shave Ice
2135 Waiola Street, Honolulu, HI