Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Matsumoto's Shave Ice

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a good ten days on Oahu with a couple of good law school buddies. Planning a trip to Hawaii, or anywhere, really, means planning an eating extravaganza, and this trip to Oahu did not disappoint. After doing some research and putting out a request for recommendation to the wonderful world of Facebook, I came up with an overwhelming list of restaurants, dessert shops, and quick biteries. Near the top of this list, however, was Matsumoto's Shave Ice.

Tucked away in an unassuming shack of a building, Matsumoto's is easy to miss when it's closed. When it's open, just keep an eye out for a crowd of crazy-eyed tourists and locals looking for their fix of one of Oahu's most highly regarded shave ice establishments. Lonely Planet's decision to include Matsumoto's as one of their top twenty-or-so things to do on Oahu doesn't help to shorten the line either. But the wait is really a game of chance. On this trip, my friends and I didn't have to wait even a second. Ten minutes later, however, the line was out the door.

The menu is long and extensive, catering to every person's tastes, inclinations, and cravings. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, keep in mind that you can combine a good number of flavors into a single delicious treat as well. My two friends and I decided to share two cones. The difference between a cone and a cup is pretty much negligible. The cones come with a plastic, UFO shield, which effectively makes the cone option the same thing as a cup with a conical base. With a cup, you'll be sipping up your melted remains like you would from a bowl (or like you would from a cup, I guess), while with a cone, you can suck them up through a straw. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

Once you place your order, the wait is short. If you're bored, take a short stroll through the market's mountain of paraphernalia. Or just stare at large blocks of ice getting shaved into mounds of snow.

Our first selection was Matsumoto's Combination, which is a psychedelic mix of lemon, pineapple, and coconut. The flavor was very much like that of a pi├▒a colada, though the color wheel on the shave ice threw me off a little. The texture of the ice was soft, with very little of the bite you might get with typical crushed ice. The ice isn't as snow-like as my favorite rendition of shaved ice, Taiwanese shaved ice (which is seriously like eating powdery snow), but this came really freaking close. I've always felt that Hawaiian shave ice needs to have a little bit of bite to the ice anyways.

Here's the other side of that same cone. So. Many. Colors.

We also topped each of our treats with an order of condensed milk. If you're not the biggest fan of the stuff, beware. A single request for condensed milk will bring forth a flash flood of sweet, creamy deliciousness.

I preferred the Li Hing Mui flavor, but I'm also a sucker for li hing mui. For those who aren't entirely sure what li hing mui is, it's salted, dried plum. I know. It sounds weird. I've had li hing mui since I was a kid, but I never really knew that li hing mui was salted, dried plum until a few years ago. The day I found out that li hing mui was salted, dried plum, that's all I could taste. Salted, dried plum or not, the shave ice syrup version of li hing mui tastes more like a tart, strawberry syrup than salted, dried plum. The tartness of the li hing mui is a great way to offset the avalanche of condensed milk, and the delicate ice waters down any trace of excessive tartness and sweetness you might experience in any given bite.

Will you be on a sugar high for the next few hours after eating this? Probably. Will you be able to prevent a sugar high by limiting yourself to just a couple bites of this delicious treat? Probably not, unless you have diabetes, of course. Will a chunk of ice form from your tear duct and roll down your cheek as you drive away from the North Shore? Definitely.

In other news, I'm currently rounding up my first trip to Napa. Expect some posts in the near future on some freaking amazing restaurants. Also, posts on chickens number 13 and 14 coming up sooner than later.

Matsumoto's Shave Ice
66-087 Kamehameha Hwy
Haleiwa, HI 96712
(808) 637-4827

GET: Li Hing Mui Shave Ice with Condensed Milk.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my god, YES, Matsumoto's. My grandparents live on Oahu, and we'd always go here when we visited them. I haven't been since I was around ten or so, but it's a very fond childhood memory.


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