Posts Tagged ‘Kapahulu Avenue’

Shave Ice Ice Baby

July 1, 2006

Something fishy is definitely going on here… The airports have been bustling with college folk and local eateries and nightclubs are a’ bumpin’. You’re no longer alone at the beaches and malls, and there’s an unusually large amount of parties and family functions to get to. And let’s not ignore the fact that you’re sweating profusely like Kalua pig at a luau. Yep gang… like Bell Biv Devoe’s Poison, Summer is in full effect!

So what should we do this summer as the sun torches down on us and parches our tender little, post-winter throats? Nothing. The weather hasn’t changed here in Hawaii since, like, forever silly.

But seriously… Let’s just say, you know, hypothetically, that we were coming out of one of our coldest “winters” ever. Brrrr… And this “Spring” thing also did a number on us. Wouldn’t we be looking forward to Mr. Sun showing his adorable face to us and defrosting our buns? Wouldn’t you be craving a refreshing, beverage-ish snack, that’s both an island favorite and a tourist attraction all the same?

Say no more. The Ed is here to help you.

Shave Ice, as it’s known here in the islands (not snow cones or shaved ice), is the perfect summertime treat to quench one’s thirst buds after a long, hot day in the sun. Yes, it is a bit cliché, but you have to admit, gathering a bunch of friends to laugh and gossip and share small kid time stories, while lapping up this magical frozen water/syrup-py concoction is still good times.

One such place that specializes in this delicacy is the original Waiola Store, located on the corner of Pa`ani and, of course, Waiola.

Corner of Pa`ani and Waiola
Corner of Pa`ani and Waiola

Hidden on an inconspicuous road, and nestled in between homes in a quiet neighborhood, this island favorite sits peacefully on the corner, as sweets-seeking patrons stop by.

Waiola Store
Waiola Store

(! – Not to be confused with Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice, located on Kapahulu Avenue. For purposes of this review, I’ll be sticking to the O.G. – Original Gem – Waiola Store that got it all started)

Waiola Store actually started as a small convenience store, selling miscellaneous knickknacks like sodas, chips, crack seed and frozen goods many moons ago.

Inside Waiola Store
Inside Waiola Store

It wasn’t until they started gaining popularity as a shave ice selling hotspot that they really took off. Now, you can’t find a day when the crowd inside the store compares to the line outside near their specially created shave ice side window.

Shave Ice window at Waiola Store
Shave Ice window at Waiola Store

Waiola’s, as they are endearingly referred to as, is known for their finely shaved ice. You won’t find the rock-hard chunks of ice here. They also offer a vast menu selection with unique flavors and add-ons that you may not see at other shave ice specialty stores. Unique add-ons like mochi balls, li hing mui seeds, lilikoi cream and chocolate syrup.

Waiola Store's ecclectic menu
Waiola Store’s ecclectic menu

On this occasion, I didn’t get too complicated. I just ordered a small cup with mochi balls and condensed milk… strawberry flavor.

The famous Waiola shave ice
The famous Waiola shave ice

(! – That’s something I forgot to mention. If you’re new at this shave ice ordering thing, the flavor should be the least of your worries. To fit in like you’ve been doing this for years, be sure to order your size and add-ons first. This way, they can start preparing it for you. The flavored syrup is added last and, as such, you would order that last.)

Waiola Store
2135 Waiola Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 949-2269

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
525 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 735-8886

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The Island Snow store in Kailua serves up shave ice alongside of their collection of surf/snow/street apparel. It’s a popular stop for those going to one of the many beautiful beaches on the Windward side, Lanikai being my favorite.

Island Snow sign
Island Snow sign

In addition to being able to buy their name brand apparel at the same time as your treat, Island Snow has a few other unique features when it comes to their shave ice flavors. They have catchy names that turn ordinary-sounding flavors into exciting ones. Godzilla Grape, Kuulei Coconut, Da-Kine Lemon Lime and Kailua Coffee to name a few. They also set up their colorful collection of syrups above a lighted counter-top, much like you’d find your assortment of drinks at a fancy nightclub or contemporary bar.

Island Snow flavors
Island Snow flavors

This time, I ordered a regular with no ice cream… Pali Lilikoi & Wacky Watermelon combo. Pretty big eh?

Island Snow shave ice
Island Snow shave ice

(! – All shave ice treats from Island Snow include up to 3 flavors & a scoop of ice cream, unless you don’t want it.)

Island Snow – Kailua
Kailua Beach Center
130 Kailua Road
Kailua, HI 96734 (map)
(808) 263-6339

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What’s a conversation about shave ice in Hawaii without mention of the world famous M. Matsumoto Grocery Store in Haleiwa town, otherwise known as Matsumoto’s Shave Ice?

M. Matsumoto Grocery Store sign
M. Matsumoto Grocery Store sign

Matsumoto’s has the richest history and gets the largest media coverage of any shave ice store in the state and perhaps the world. And though there are many naysayers who claim that Waiola’s or even Haleiwa neighbor Aoki’s is better, you can’t question Matsumoto’s popularity.

Like Waiola Store, Matsumoto’s started as (and continues to be) a convenience-type store. Though, these days, most of their products caters to the tourist and shave ice crowd (sun tan lotion, hats, logo apparel, beachwear, snacks, etc.).

The menu looks like the same one they’ve had since they opened, and the prices seemed to have stayed the same as well. Just $1.30 for a small! Over the years, they’ve attached little one-piecers as they’ve added new flavors like mango, lychee and melona. Funny, but cute. A reminder of the mom and pops feel still present here.

Matsumoto's menu
Matsumoto’s menu

The equipment they use looks quite heavy duty. Is that an industrial strength motor? Wowsers!

Matsumoto's shave ice machines
Matsumoto’s shave ice machines

The photo from my friend’s shave ice came out nicer, so we’ll show it instead of mine. She ordered a vanilla/cotton candy combo FYI.

Matsumoto's shave ice
Matsumoto’s shave ice

(! – Be careful of the killah bees when eating outside. They usually swarm around the trash can slurping on the sweet juices. I’ve never been stung, but you never know… Just be sure you’re not in the area when they are hungry!)

M. Matsumoto Grocery Store
66-087 Kamehameha Highway
Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 (map)
(808) 637-4827

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Other notable shave ice joints around the state:

Jo Jo’s Clubhouse – Waimea (Kauai)
On the way to or coming back from the long drive to/from Waimea Canyon, you’ll see the bright sign of Jo Jo’s from Kaumualii Highway.

Jo Jo's Clubhouse
Jo Jo’s Clubhouse

Jo Jo’s Clubhouse
Mile Marker 23, Kaumualii Highway (Hwy. 50)
Waimea, Hawaii 96796 (map)
(808) 635-7615

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Itsu’s Fishing Supplies Inc. – Hilo (Big Island)
Known to the locals as “ice shave”, Itsu’s serves up this winner alongside of local style plate lunches, in addition to doubling as as a fishing supplies store.

Itsu's Fishing Supplies, Inc. (Photo by Nancy Vereze)
Itsu’s Fishing Supplies, Inc. (Photo by Nancy Vereze)

Itsu’s Fishing Supplies Inc.
810 Piilani Street
Hilo, HI. 96720 (map)
(808) 935-8082

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Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc. – Kailua-Kona (Big Island)
Across from the Palace in town, this shaved ice has ice cream in the middle. (Mahalo for the info Wendy & Jay!)

Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc. (Photo courtesy jatbar.com)
Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc. (Photo courtesy jatbar.com)

Scandinavian Shaved Ice, Inc.
75-5699 Alii Drive
Kailua-Kona, HI. 96740 (map)
(808) 331-1626

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Tasaka Guri Guri Shop – Maui Mall, Kahului (Maui)
Yeah, I know, this is not really shave ice, but we can’t pass up the chance to mention this famous sweet, sweet, juice, soda and condensed milk concoction can we???

Noelle, Kelvin, Hillary, myself, Grant and Shari outside of Tasaka Guri Guri
Noelle, Kelvin, Hillary, myself, Grant and Shari outside of Tasaka Guri Guri

Tasaka Guri Guri Shop
70 E Kaahumanu Avenue
Kahului, HI 96732 (map)
(808) 871-4513

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I know I’ve missed tons of your favorites from around the state. I guess that’s what you get for keeping me cooped up all day here in Mililani. Sorry dudes and dudettes, but be sure to let me have it by posting your favorite shave ice (or any sweets) hotspot in the comments section below. Now stop reading this and get back out there and enjoy your summer won’tcha?

Tenkaippin – A Taste of Kyoto In the Heart of Waikiki

June 1, 2006

So there you are. Sitting in your teeny little 5′ x 5′ cubicle, with no money or vacation time, daydreaming of getting away to a far away land… Preferably someplace that involves an exciting nightlife and good eats for cheap. No?

Ok, so you’re not like me. Let me repaint the picture for you. There you are, loungin’ in your ergonomically-correct Lay-Z-Boy-like office chair in your colossal suite of an office, with wads of sweaty cash seeping out of your ears. Your administrative assistant meticulously plans the exotic destination of the month that your private jet will take you to. Better?

If this is the case, two things: 1) I hate you and 2) this column is not for you! 🙂 Kidding of course, but this column is geared more for the common folk. You know, the everyday man or woman who likes a good deal and a fun time when he/she sees one. If this is you, come along with me to explore a place serving up a little bit of Kyoto, Japan right in the heart of Waikiki: Tenkaippin Hawaii.

A quick search on your favorite airline reservations web site will give you a round-trip ticket from Honolulu to Japan for anywhere from the upper $600-700s to over $2000! I even saw a ridiculously priced Air France option for a mere $7305! Merrrcy! And, unless you’re lucky enough to have friends or family who live there and are willing to put up with you for a week or two, let’s not forget to include the costs of hotel and daily expenditures. By the time you come back, you’ll be wishing you just went to see the Duke Kahanamoku statue and considered it a vacation.

Duke Kahanamoku statue, Waikiki
Duke Kahanamoku statue, Waikiki

So flying to Japan for 7,000 big ones is not your bag. That’s ok, I feel you. But what is one to do if one desires the pleasures of travel, but lacks the needed time and fundage? Well, your options are simple. Either find yourself a generous sugar momma or daddy or pay a visit to the streets of Waiks.

Ahhh, Waikiki. If you concentrate really really hard, you can almost trick yourself into thinking it’s a vacation in and of itself. The white sandy beaches, the melting pot of cultures and languages, and the multitude of shopping options and eating establishments. Taking a stroll down Kalakaua Avenue will give you a first person’s view of living the life as your typical tourist.

(! – If you’re from these parts pard’ner, I suggest you park your horse ride at one end and walk through Waikiki, rather than drive it. It gives you more of a touristy feel, helps you get circulation through your otherwise dormant legs, and allows you to notice a lot more than you probably would if driving.)

Among the myriad of eateries is an authentic, Japanese noodle-shop style restaurant called Tenkaippin (pronounced as two words, Tenka Ippin) on the more western end of Kalakaua. As part of a chain of restaurants in Japan carrying the same name (www.tenkaippin.co.jp), this little, unassuming shop carries a big chopstick when it comes to taste and popularity, and has been doing so for the last six years.

If you come at just the right time, the first thing you’ll notice is the bright, but welcoming red doors, signage and noren, or door curtains.

Front entrance of Tenkaippin Hawaii
Front entrance of Tenkaippin Hawaii

I say “right” time because this place is almost always crowded. If you come at the wrong time, all you’ll see is a large crowd outside and the sign-in board staring you in the face.

Sign-in board (waiting list) for Tenkaippin
Sign-in board (waiting list) for Tenkaippin

(! – If you can help it, get there early or at off-peak hours to avoid the crowds)

Once you enter, you’ll immediately notice the cleanliness and just-like-home atmosphere the place gives you. The effervescent aroma of the unique soup base also tickles your nasal cavities.

A view of the kitchen with President Scott Suzui hard at work
A view of the kitchen with President Scott Suzui hard at work

Rare open seating with unique condiments adorning the tables
Rare open seating with unique condiments adorning the tables.

Since much of their clientele are those from Japan, you’ll notice that, as you look around, a lot of the signage caters to the them.

Menu options in Japanese
Menu options in Japanese

Even the takoyaki specials are in Japanese!
Even the takoyaki specials are in Japanese!

Information on their specialty: the kotteri rahmen
Information on their specialty: the kotteri rahmen

No worries though, they’ve got an English menu for us gaijin (foreigners) too. And, if you think that that reading thing is overrated, you’re in luck. Just plop down in your seat and announce to the world kotteri onegaishimasu! You’ve just ordered yourself the specialty in which they’re known for, the kotteri rahmen.

The famous Tenkaippin kotteri rahmen
The famous Tenkaippin kotteri rahmen

“The kotteri rahmen is what we’re famous for,” says president Scott Suzui. “It has an unusual taste that’s almost addicting.”

The kotteri rahmen noodles swim in a soup that is very thick and rich. This thickness is accomplished by cooking chicken and assorted vegetables for over ten hours, bringing out the collagen, which Suzui points out is also good for healthy looking skin. Grindz that takes care of the tummy and the face? What more could you ask for!?

It all starts with the thick kotteri soup base
It all starts with the thick kotteri soup base

Amazingly, all of the soup ingredients are flown in directly from Japan. Now that deserves an exclamation point on the end of Authentic!

A couple of words of advice before embarking on your inaugural kotteri adventure:

The kotteri rahmen and soup base is an acquired taste. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, local saimin stand flavoring. If you’re used to eating “real” rahmen from Japan, then you’ll be ok here. If not, consider yourself warned.

Be prepared for some sore limbs, especially on the hand and nether regions! By my 4th bite, the ol’ money makers started to get really tired. The soup is so thick and the noodles are so heavy with the flavoring that it takes a good amount of effort to shovel this delicacy into your pie hole. You may want to consider doing finger bicep curls before trying your hand at this.

Taking a stab at the heavy kotteri noodles
Taking a stab at the heavy kotteri noodles

On your table, you’ll notice an assortment of condiments, some more recognizable than others. Scott recommended using the chili/garlic concoction with my kotteri to enhance the flavor. I’ve never had that before, but YUM! Strong garlic taste, with a hint of spice! And for those who can’t eat garlic (or are part vampire), he recommends using the chili/miso.

Chili/garlic concoction used to add flavor to your meal
Chili/garlic concoction used to add flavor to your meal

For those more in the mood of the mainstream stuff, Tenkaippin also serves up your traditional combo meals like the miso rahmen/fried rice combo below.

Tenkaippin's fried rice
Tenkaippin’s fried rice

Tenkaippin's miso rahmen
Tenkaippin’s miso rahmen

And what’s a virtual vacation to Japan without experiencing a little takoyaki (fried octopus dumpling) on the side?

Half dozen order of takoyaki please!
Half dozen order of takoyaki please!

So you see, going on vacation doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost very much for that matter. And let’s face it… Avoiding that 8 hour flight ain’t so bad either. Whether you’re daydreaming from a 5×5 or a Lay-Z-Boy, one thing’s for sure… you can find a bit of Kyoto right in the heart of Waikiki. Itadakimasu!

Scott Suzui and wife Mayumi in front of Tenkaippin Restaurant
Scott Suzui and wife Mayumi in front of Tenkaippin Restaurant

Tenkaippin Hawaii
617 Kapahulu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 732-1211

2132 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 926-1100
(808) 926-1103 – FAX

NOTE: Tenkaippin Has Moved!
New address above (on Kapahulu Avenue, next to Zippy’s and around the corner from Tokkuri-Tei and Dave’s Ice Cream).