If four soft serve ice cream shops could open within a month of each other in autumn, it would be in Hawaii. Funny enough, they also happen to be within spitting distance of each other: Three are at Ala Moana Center and the fourth, Gimme Chills, is a block and a half mauka at Samsung Plaza.
I spotted a friend's Instagram post about Gimme Chills just as our resident soft serve savant, Kelli Shiroma, was coming out of a sugar coma after covering Somi Somi's debut. We set out to see how far we could make it though the GC menu.
Being in the middle of Keeaumoku, the shop has a Korean bent. The large fruity bingsu shave ice bowls and sweet hotteok mochi pancakes caught my attention, as they're hard to come by in Hawaii. For Kelli, it was the taiyaki cones swirled with housemade soft cream flavors like Fantastic10, a mild 10-grain ice cream, and Black Choco made with squid ink. You can also catch some made-to-order taiyaki, or bungeoppang, filled with red bean, custard or Nutella and banana – they're three for $5 and a buck extra for the banana varient.
If your sweet tooth isn't tingling yet, they're also whipping up honey brick toast ($7.95) and mochi rice sticks ($4.45 - 5.95) and are working on a frozen s'mores dessert and a drink menu. This is just since opening on Oct. 25.
First up: the soft serve, which also comes in Mr. Green matcha and Ube Scream varieties. We got a taiyaki cone ($5.95), which has more of a glutinous mochi chew than a SomiSomi ah-boong, and swirled ube and chocolate. A topping bar near the register is available for DIY customizations with M&Ms, sprinkles, syrups and more. As expected, the soft serve melts extremely fast, so you'll need to be quick if you plan on posting it to your 'gram. The 10-grain flavor, reminicent of a toasty genmaicha tea, is my favorite and happens to be the shop's most popular.
The texture of GC's original taiyaki is best experienced warm with either the gooey custard or sweet azuki bean paste fillings, spread edge to edge. It's like the cones and have that same addictive chew.
In Korea's sweltering summer, crowds flock to eat patbingsu: shave ice with sweet red bean, mochi, roasted soybean powder, slivered almonds, condensed milk and sliced fruit. Gimme Chills' owners imported a machine to create milk bingsu, a new type trending in Korea that instantly transforms cream into soft, powdery snow. In a bowl, the fine powder is topped with a matching soft cream and crowned with chewy mochi cubes, glistening chunks of fruit and homemade cheesecake, creamy smooth kabocha pumpkin or simply with pulverized black sesame. In total, the menu has 12 flavors (from $8 to 10 each) and is growing.
Their small appearance is deceptive: This will humble even the most confident dessert demolisher. If you plan on conquering the menu, I suggest sharing amongst many friends.
Hotteok is a rare treat even within Hawaii's Korean community. A beloved winter street food, I discovered it while freezing my butt off in Seoul; I found it again at last year's Korean Festival (video below). The crispy pan-fried rice cakes are served bubbling hot from the inside out. Filled with crushed nuts and molten brown sugar and cinnamon, they singe your lips, which is part of the hotteok experience. At Gimme Chills they're $2.75 or two for $5, but if you want one with ice cream it's $4.75.
With new desserts in the works, I might be seeking refuge from the tropical heat of Koreatown more often.
Gimme Chills Dessert Cafe
665 Keeaumoku Street
Sun - Thurs 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Fri - Sat 10:30 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Metered street or validated 3-hour parking in the Samsung lot