Step aside, Matsumoto and Aoki, there's a new kid in town.
My eyes are acutely aware of anything shave ice. I'll be walking down a random street in Osaka and spot the kanji for kakigori (氷) on noren curtains a mile away. In the case of Kaimana Shave Ice, the green-and-white sign on a barn-red building brought me to a halt. Shave ice? I'm there.
But then again, if I weren't subconsciously always looking for shave ice, I probably would have blown right past. If you're southbound, you might miss it.
North Shore native Jake Nowicki quietly opened his shop in mid-December and based on his accent wall, he's already amassed a healthy number of fans from around this world. Although I didn't sign his wall, I am definitely one of them.
Nowicki's inspiration stems from growing up and eating shave ice on the North Shore. What sets him apart from the shops down the highway is his menu of natural syrups made in-house using fruit and other ingredients like cacao and Japanese matcha. While his offerings aren't extensive, you can tell he's put a lot of effort in developing his flavors.
To order, choose an original creation that pairs shave ice flavors with ice cream and toppings, or build your own. Ice creams include banana, macadamia nut and vanilla while toppings range from li hing mui powder to condensed milk and mochi.
My friend goes for the very pink Sunrise ($5) of lychee and strawberry syrups over a delicious banana ice cream, all topped with chewy mochi bits. The banana ice cream rivals the banana gelato I used to get at Grondin in Chinatown. The lychee flavor is intense and reminds me of those jellies you got in a tub from Costco, only frozen. Talk about instant nostalgia.
Nowicki's other pairings include the Heavenly, which pairs matcha and cacao syrups with sweet cream over macadamia nut ice cream and mochi bits, or the North Shore with mango, pineapple and coconut syrups with sweet cream and macadamia nut ice cream.
I go the create-your-own route, which includes one or two flavors for $4. Although tempted by the coffee and matcha flavors, One stands out immediately: sweet corn. When I asked Nowicki about it, he reveals his inspiration was the Filipino dessert maiz con hielo, and that this is his favorite flavor. Right there, it clicks.
I also opt for vanilla ice cream ($1) which, when combined with the corn flavor, gives me flashbacks of Corn Pops cereal, one of my favorites growing up. Texture of the ice is neither fluffy nor crunchy but closer to that of a slurpable Icee. You'll want to eat quickly as these bowls melt fast. Then again, we eat outside on the lanai they've decked out with comfy seating – I could chill there for hours.
You can also meander down the steps to enjoy your treats by the river.
When you find yourself headed up north, Kaimana Shave Ice is a hidden gem is worth a stop. Just park in the lot with food trucks about 200 feet down the road and follow the signs to shave ice nirvana.
Kaimana Shave Ice
66-519 Kamehameha Hwy.
Thur - Tue 11:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.