Matsumoto Shave Ice (Hale’iwa, HI)

Lychee/pina colada and lychee/lilikoi shave ices

It was good fortune that we were able to compare not only shrimp trucks but shave ice as well. Earlier on our trip, we sampled shave ice at Waiola store in Honolulu. Matsumoto’s is a destination stop for many fans, including busloads of Japanese tourists. Waiola draws mostly locals. The lines at both can get quite long, though I suspect that it’s more of a problem at M’s throughout the day.

Because the ice here is a bit grainier than Waiola’s, it holds its shape better when topped with syrups. There is a good selection of syrup flavors, including two of my favorites: lychee and lilikoi, though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why the latter should be so bright red. Then again, part of the fun and eye appeal of shave ice are the bright artificial colors. My wife’s piña colada syrup was very tasty, very coconut-y. Vanilla ice cream and kintoki are two extras you can add. I’ve never developed an appreciation for sweet azuki (adzuki) beans, but the ice cream that I added for the first time last year, right here at Matsumoto’s, is something I perhaps can’t live without. The photo above shows lychee/pina colada and lychee/lilikoi combinations.

Matsumoto Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI
Flavors and accompaniments

Shrimp Wars: Giovanni’s vs. Fumi’s (Kahuku, HI)

The usual money on the North Shore shrimp trucks is on Giovanni’s, which started the phenomenon back in the 1960s by offering fresh shrimp (from their own farm) cooked in olive oil, butter and garlic and served with two scoops of rice (what else!). Since then, there have been many imitators, some who have their staunch advocates. These include Macky’s, Romy’s and Fumi’s, all located along the Kam Highway in Kahuku.

Last year, we ate at Fumi’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku on the recommendation of a poster on chowhound. So, this year, in our attempt to compare the two, we purchased one plate from Giovanni’s and one from Fumi’s to do our own taste-off. We selected two kinds to compare: garlic and butter (which Giovanni’s popularized) and spicy. Lest you think we ate our way through four whole orders, we were able to get half orders of each. G’s will actually make half-orders separately ($6.50 each, as of 2010); Fumi’s charges an extra $1 for the split combination on top of the basic $12 price).

The flavor of the garlic and butter shrimp were very similar. The shrimp were fresh and potent from garlic with a hint of lemon juice. The shrimp at Fumi’s were slightly more buttery (☆☆☆☆), while the prawns were more garlicky at Giovanni’s (☆☆☆½). A virtual draw.

The spicy shrimp was another matter. Giovanni’s version was very disappointing (☆☆). Their “special blend” of hot sauce lacked depth, as if it were a mere combination of chile pepper sauce and vinegar. Add to this the fact that the shrimp were overcooked. On the other hand, Fumi’s spicy shrimp was much more flavorful (☆☆☆☆) from a combination of chile pepper sauce, sriracha and plenty of butter. There was no comparison. The sauce drizzled on rice was to-die-for.

From our point-of-view, the overall experience is better at Fumi’s. Not only do you get as good a product or better at Fumi’s, the crowds are rarely a problem (as it almost always is at G’s) and, for those to whom this is important, it appears cleaner, less grungy. Another extra nicety–at Fumi’s, you get a side of salad and a slice of pineapple. It’s also $1 cheaper for a plate. Our future visits will be to Fumi’s without question. There are two Fumi’s: the shrimp truck and the stand, not far from each other. We ate at the stand.


83 Kamehameha Highway
Kahuku, HI 96731
56-781 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731

Koko Head (Honolulu, HI)

Some of the most spectacular scenery in the islands can be seen along the coastline of southeast Oahu. Past Diamond Head, you’ll begin to notice steep sides of Koko Crater’s caldera on the left and on the right, rugged lava and sandstone cliffs overlooking beautiful beaches and pounding surf. This is the area of the famous Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, a popular snorkeling spot, and where Doris Duke and Henry Kaiser have built huge estates. As we drove by the Preserve around lunchtime, the parking lot was completely full. Traffic cops were directing cars away.

In addition, Koko Head Regional Park has several tourist stops, including overlooks, bays, a botanical garden, the Halona Blowhole, and extremely rugged coastline. It’s mesmerizing to stand on the cliffs to watch the surf pounding the rocks and see enormous ocean currents swirling offshore.

We wanted to hike along the Kuliouou Ridge Trail when we planned our trip, but the continuing winds and spotty rain put a damper on this.

Bubbies (Honolulu)

Bubbies is a premium ice cream store that has been doing business on Oahu since the late 1980s. They are based in Aiea and have two outlets on Oahu, including one on University Avenue between Waikiki and the university. Oprah’s “O” Magazine featured their island-favorite mochi ice creams. They are served in many hotels and a few Japanese restaurants on the island. We even bought one at Coffee Bean on Lewers. There are many flavors to choose from, including several tropical ones.

On our way to southeast Oahu and the North Shore, we stopped at Koko Marina Shopping Center where Bubbies has a store. The picture at the top shows guava and lilikoi mochi ice creams. We also had a lychee one at Coffee Bean last Sunday. These are really delicious. The guava flavor is more muted than lychee or lilikoi. With their tropical flavors, these are our favorite mochi ice creams (☆☆☆☆).

Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream and Desserts
Koko Marina Shopping Center
7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, D103

Kona Brewing Company (Honolulu, HI)

On our way to southeast Oahu and the North Shore, we stopped at Kona Brewing Company, a restaurant that serves food and the beers made on the Big Island, which the staff affectionately calls the “Mother Ship.” One of their distinctive brews is the Pipeline Porter (available on the mainland), a smooth and dark beer blended with Kona coffee. The Longboard Island Lager (also available on the mainland) is smooth and slightly spicy, a great all-around beer. Another interesting one is Wailua Wheat, which contains lilikoi. At the restaurant, all their beers are on tap.

One good way to taste their beers available only on-tap is to purchase a flight, a sample of four 4-ounce glassfuls, which you can select. Our flight consisted of Black Sand Porter (very dark, bitter, chocolatey, roasty), Duke’s Blond Ale (light, crisp), Lavaman Red Ale (caramel, orange-red in color, malty), and Wailua Wheat (medium, slightly sweet, passion fruit, tangy).

This is a great place to stop before or after visiting southeast Oahu.

Kona Brewing Company (Koko Marina Shopping Center)
7192 Kalaniana’ole Highway
Inside Hawaii Kai, waterside

Leonard’s (Honolulu)

Custard-filled malasada

Custard-filled malasada

Among the island’s favorite pastries are Portuguese malasadas. Leonard’s is generally regarded as Oahu’s best, and for good reason. Our visit here last year hooked us. My favorite malasadas are those filled with custard. Why are they so good? First of all, they are served warm out of the oven. Their yeasty shell is slightly crispy on the outside, achingly tender and slightly doughy inside. One bite will release the creamy and not-too-sweet custard filling, available in a variety of flavors. The flavor of the month was lilikoi. We ordered it and coconut. Wow!

Leonard’s is a bakery, so it actually does sell other pastries as well as a few savory items, including pao doce, which looks like a sausage with a wrap.

Pao doce

Pao doce

Leonard’s Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave