Monday, November 8, 2010

The Verdict on Shave Ice

I tried my second shave ice this weekend.  This time, I made it all the way to the North Shore and tried the famous Matsumoto's.  I am happy to say that the deciding between the two premier shave ice stands - Waiola or Matsumoto's - was not a difficult decision.  In fairness, I did not try the same type of shave ice.  At Waiola, I had the Sundae shave ice while at Matsumoto's I had the Rainbow w/ice cream shave ice.  However, I am confident that ordering the same thing would not alter my opinion.

Without further ado, the winner is...Waiola's Shave Ice

Matsumoto's was still good.  The rainbow w/ice cream shave ice includes three flavors: Pineapple, Vanilla, and Strawberry over vanilla ice cream.  Again, the large is PLENTY big enough for 2 people.  The benefits are that it is not as sweet as Waiola's sundae shave ice.  This makes it somewhat more refreshing, but not enough to warrant victory.  It was not as sweet, but both were pretty sweet.  The ice cream mixed with the shave ice was the best part, but you really have to dig for it.  It takes a while to eat your way through the mound of shave ice they put on top.  Another good thing about Matsumoto's is that it is, in fact, cheaper than Waiola's.  A large at Matsumoto's is $2.75, or for another $0.25, you can get a highly-recommended (and re-usable) holding cup to prevent dripping on your hands.  A large at Waiola's is $4.50.

Matsumoto's Rainbow Shave Ice w/Ice Cream

The primary negative of Matsumoto's (and the reason it lost in the taste test) is texture.  It was too "commercial."  Matsumoto's was much closer to a snow cone than "shave ice."  Matsumoto's is so popular and the line is so constant that they "pre-shave" their ice.  They then transfer it to a freezer where they scoop it out like ice cream.  This has the unfortunate side effect of slightly melting the ice and re-freezing it such that it more closely resembles an ice block than "snow."  Waiola's, on the other hand, is shaved for each individual customer and hand-packed by the attendant.  This makes a world of difference in terms of texture.  Matsumoto's also seems more commercial in the sense that you can buy t-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, and other such tourist crap while in the store.  Waiola's is hidden in the middle of a neighborhood available only to locals who know to go there.

The Real Waiola's Shave Ice
Interesting side note:  Waiola's Shave Ice was shown in Hawaii Five-O's November 1, 2010 episode Ho'apono.  However, the Waiola shave ice stand was pictured as being along Ala Moana Beach.  In the show, Waiola's is in front a picturesque ocean front complete with picnic tables and grass, completed by happy people walking by. HA! Waiola Shave Ice is the dessert equivalent of a dive bar.  It is everyone's favorite place precisely because it is NOT set in a picturesque setting frequented by tourists.  It is located in the middle of a fairly run down neighborhood with no picnic tables, limited parking (at best), and certainly no scenic surroundings.  The real Waiola Shave Ice stand, however, would have made for some crappy TV, so the oversight was probably deliberate.  Importantly, I think it is telling that the producers/directors/decision-makers still decided to have the cast eat at a "fake" Waiola's rather than some other shave ice establishment.  Even the fake Waiola's beats the real Matsumoto's.

UPDATE:  In looking through other Shave Ice reviews, I came across Aoki's, which is next to Matsumoto's on the North Shore.  It is separated only by a small church and parking lot.  I actually saw Aoki's when we went to Matsumoto's, but given that no one ever mentions it in serious Shave Ice debate, I ignored its existence.  Anyway, it turns out that at least one person finds Aoki's to be better than Matsumoto's.  Therefore, it seems that another comparison/competition needs to be held.

1 comment:

  1. I wholeheartedly disagree with your review of Waiola's and Matsumoto's shaved ice stands! I myself have conducted a similar review and have identified the following factors that must be considered when determining which is superior: 1) Flavor, 2) Texture, 3) Appearance, 4) Variety, and 5) Cost.

    Now, for the breakdown:

    1) Flavor - Matsumoto's clearly has better flavor than Waiola's. Matsumoto's tastes, well, less fake (if that is possible considering all shaved ice flavoring is artificial). The Strawberry is a particular favorite of mine. Waiola's was just too sweet - each bite was simply painful for my teeth!

    2) Texture - I will give you this, Waiola's does wine on texture - it feels like you are eating powdered snow, rather than ice. However, I do take issue with you implying that Matsumoto's is like a snow cone that is subject to "re-freezing it such that it more closely resembles an ice block." I simply did not have that experience at all - while Matsumoto's is textured more like ice, it did not all melt together; in fact, it was quite easy to eat!

    3) Appearance - The overall appearance of Matsumoto's shaved ice was far superior to that of Waiola's. Waiola's is served in a styrofoam bowl and the various flavor colorings were not bright and muddied together as you ate it. Matsumoto's, on the other hand, was a bright, ice-cream cone-shaped sculpture served in a cup shaped like a daisy!

    4) Variety - Matsumoto's wins here too - it had more flavors to choose from than did Waiola's.

    5) Cost - This one is easy. Matsumoto's cost less and you got MORE - including a cute little plastic cup shaped like a flower which: a) brightened my day, b) made for less-messy eating, and c) is reusable, which means the second time you get shaved ice, it will be even cheaper.

    In the end, the score is 4-1, Matsumoto's. So, unless texture is everything, stick with Matsumoto's. Haha, I guess we now represent the heated divide between those who love Waiola's and those who love Matsumoto's.