Four years ago when I lived in Los Angeles, SomiSomi was a popular local soft serve shop. Much has changed since then: I moved back home to Honolulu and SomiSomi expanded across Southern California — and now, to Hawaii.
SomiSomi Hawaii opened Oct. 20 outside Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market food court, next to Coco Curry House and facing the parking lot. It's the third soft serve spot to open at Ala Moana in recent weeks after Aloha Confectionery by Target and HI Steaks inside Foodland Farms. I compared the first two and declared the pricier Aloha Confectionery soft serve the winner. So how does SomiSomi compare?
Solidly in the middle. Aloha Confectionery's Aloha Cookie ($7.95) is still No. 1 for me because of the intense soft serve flavors, assortment of toppings and cinnamon-flavored waffle cone. SomiSomi is next because its soft serve is creamy and not icy, the ube-Oreo swirl is delicious, and how can you not love a dessert in a fish-shaped cone? The price (around $6) is reasonable. It just melts at an alarming rate, so it's more like a race to the finish instead of a leisurely dessert.
Here are 10 things you should know before checking out SomiSomi:
- The chain is growing fast. Ala Moana is SomiSomi’s 10th store and their first in Hawaii. Next up: Cupertino in December.
- They have hot and cold fish: Hot is their Japanese-inspired taiyaki, a fish-shaped waffle that's served warm with fillings sealed inside. The cold option is the Ah-Boong soft serve in a fish-shaped cone.
- Ah-Boong is not taiyaki. It can be confusing because for a while, soft serve swirled inside fish-shaped waffles was trending on the mainland. Do a hashtag search for #taiyaki and you'll see what I mean. Ah-Boong translates to “ice cream fish” in Korean and looks like taiyaki filled with soft serve, but the cone is lighter and crispier. SomiSomi's grilled taiyaki is softer and chewier and filled with cheddar, Nutella, red bean, taro or custard.
- Don't close the lid on your taiyaki. It's served hot, so unless you like soggy taiyaki, leave your to-go box open until it cools.
- Soft serve swirl flavors change weekly. Check SomiSomi’s Instagram. This week it’s ube-Oreo and matcha-milk. Ube-Oreo delivers a hint of cookie and a hint of ube in each bite, and the balance is perfect. There's talk about bringing L.A.’s black sesame and milk tea flavors to Hawaii. Fingers crossed!
- Custard is the most popular Ah-Boong filling, but if you're a chocolate lover with a high tolerance for sweets, get Nutella.
- Toppings are unlimited. Rainbow sprinkles, Oreo crumbs, Fruity Pebbles, graham crackers, Cap'n Crunch, coconut flakes, li hing powder or cocoa pebbles — there's no extra charge for getting all of them.
- The soft serve melts quickly, but there’s a way to prevent drippage. Order your soft serve in a cup and get the fish on top. All the toppings are still inside the cone for you to enjoy.
- There are Hawaii exclusives. The taro flavor can only be found at this location, and the orchid topping is also a Hawaii-only thing.
- Starting in November, a lactose-free flavor will be available. This is phenomenal news to anyone who’s sensitive to dairy.
SomiSomi Soft Serve & Taiyaki
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Mon-Sat 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sun 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.