Food Talk: Ala Moana Center

I’ve never been much of a mall enthusiast, and would hesitate to recommend that Honolulu tourists spend precious vacation time in a shopping center, but there’s something about Ala Moana Center. It’s at the end of the bus line, so that’s how I usually get there, but it is also directly behind beautiful and peaceful Ala Moana Beach Park–well usually it’s peaceful, not so yesterday; school’s out remember.

Mostly, I come here to eat. Shokudo, outside the mall, is a Japanese restaurant that makes a killer cheese mochi dish and honey toast dessert. I stock up on imported Japanese groceries at Shirokiya, then stop in the food court for tako-yaki, a bento box or a Harajuku-style crepe, before heading back downstairs for raspberry mille-feiulle mochi cream.

Look:

Mochi Creams at Shirokiya

And then there’s Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room; plantation tea jelly from La Palme d’Or and  pau hana lychee mojitos at Panya:

Lychee Mojito at Panya

On yesterday’s visit I tried the acai bowl from Blue Hawaii Lifestyle for the first time. I think I’ve had a broad acai bowl experience over the last eight months: I’ve tried them from the chains, Jamba Juice and Smoothie King (delish and bland respectively); from Kava Roots on the North Shore (huge, chunky granola and thick slices of banana–filling but not memorable) and from Lanikai Juice (didn’t get a fair chance–there was no place to sit so I walked with it in midday heat until I got to the beach and it turned into slush). The one I always went back to was Vita Juice in Chinatown, partly because it was underneath the office I used to work at, but mostly because the sweet owner piled on the fruit and honey (Lanikai Juice makes you pay extra).

I have a few places still to try, but I’ll be back to Blue Hawaii. I tried the Jasmine Bowl, which had just enough of a tangy flavour, and I liked that the fruit and granola was mixed through the bowl, rather than just lying on top. Also, sweet space. I loved the blue stained glass, ceramic bowls, locally-made omiyagis on sale and the little notice on the napkin dispenser that says Napkins=Trees. I didn’t take any.

Blue Hawaii Lifestyle, Ala Moana Center

Matsumoto’s on the North Shore

Only the very early or the very lucky arrive acquire a Matsumoto’s shave ice without standing in a line that stretches out the door, bumping into tourists snapping pictures of the store’s yellow sign. Debate rages as to who has the best shave ice on O’ahu, or even here on the North Shore, but Matsumoto’s has the history (shave ice has been sold at this store for 60 years) and the fame–hence the line.

The ice—while allegedly courser than that of Aoki’s next door—is finely ground and covered with brightly colored homemade syrups. Multiple flavors on offer range from the exotic Li Hing Mui, to the ordinary Strawberry. You may opt for one of Matsumoto’s combinations: the “Rainbow,” “Hawaiian Special” or “Matsumoto’s,” and, if you prefer a little more than ice and syrup in your cone, you can ask for a scoop of ice cream or azuki beans.

The final product makes such a pretty picture that it seems a shame to have to slurp it down so quickly, but you have to hurry because as soon as you get out into the North Shore sun that ice is going to melt and turn into a sticky mess.