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Wednesday 28 April 2010

Matsumoto's Shaved Ice Haleiwa, Oahu - refreshing on a hot humid day

Rating 7.5/10

Touted as Hawaii's best shaved ice by many of the locals and with a large fan following bordering onto cult culture in Japan, this was on my places to hit up while in Oahu in May 2010.  Located about 10minuntes drive from the Dole Plantation site in the northen bit of the island, its a scenic drive into North Point.  Parking was a bit of a pain as this little unassuming store was located in the small historical sleepy town of Haleiwa.  Still, as we drove up in the middle of a warm afternoon, things looked promising, as there were cars parked and double parked for 3 blocks leading up to the place.

The old venerable signage
Be prepared to wait as 1-2block long lineups are not uncommon.  Folks are friendly and its amazing what a bit of sun beating down on your head and close quarters makes for meeting new acquaintances.  Its not without relief when you finally get onto the rickety wooden porch and into some shade.  Matsumoto's is unassuming and stands by thier history - I don't think thier sign has been changed, only weathered over the years since its founding in 1951. This little shack is a historical landmark of the human spirit - it speaks of the story of a determined Japanese family who eked out a living, eventually opening a modest grocery store and expanding into a small sucessful snow cone empire. 

Quick and efficient, staff hand out paper cones with your orders scribbled down with a high tech sharpie.  As you continue to cue up for the shaved ice and incrementally inch towards the shaved ice counter, you file through a narrow aisle with shaved ice merchandise piled waist-shoulder high and t-shirts with you guessed it the Matsumoto's name all over.  Not surprisingly, many Japanese tourists are snapping up the decaled merchandise like it was collectible memorbilia - it is in Japan.  I was really tempted to get the cute sumo dude binging on a handful of shaved ices... hey, its cute!

Staff making the highly anticipated shaved ice
With a multitude of syrup flavors, including more regional favorites like Lilikoi (Passion fruit) and guava, historical favorites like Lihing Mui (pickled fruit), it was hard to choose.  Our fellow line-mates helped us, as to make the shaved ice super indulgent, add on a scoop of vanilla icecream on the bottom of the paper cone... or if you want to be really bad, add on a generous scoop of Azuki beans - large tender red beans candied in sugar syrup.  I went with both the Azuki beans and vanilla icecream. Go big or go home... after the shaved ice was shaved and compacted into a huge sphere somehow staying in the cone and drizzled with a diabetic inducing amount of syrup (3 varieties of sugar free syrup is available), it was a gigantic task to hold and eat the now 1lb+ shaved ice.  Matsumoto also cleverly sells a plastic cone holder that catches all the good stuff that inevitably drips, avalanches off your shaved ice.  If you get anything bigger than a small, or want to add in the icecream or beans, its well worth the investment not to see your shaved ice and topping hit the floor after waiting over 20min in line.

Quibble - Syrups not fresh juice based syrups, no A/C interior, 7.5/10... While not using fresh fruit syrups, the Azuki beans alone is worth the drive down, and the size of the shaved ice is larger than most other shaved ice places on the island.  Just remember to bring a hat or umbrella so you don't roast while waiting in line, and yes, you can justify getting a large shaved ice with the Azuki beans and the vanilla icecream. Mahalo!

Matsumoto's Shaved Ice
Address 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy Haleiwa, HI
Phone (808) 637-4827
Hours varies, check website
Matsumoto Shave Ice on Urbanspoon


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1 comment:

Leah Armitage said...

Shaved ice is the only thing I loved about the hot, humid weather. I won't stay inside the house until I get a dehumidifier, so I'd rather walk outside and mingle a little bit, then indulge in that vanilla + shaved ice.

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