Mango Ice Cream with Shoyu, Anyone?
Dare to try these unusual ice cream flavors at 8 Half Desserts in Kaimukī.
Owner Robert Borling and Shane Fivella, who’s in charge of pr and social media, standing outside 8 Half Desserts in Kaimukī. Borling is not afraid to experiment.
Photo: Maria Kanai
There’s a tiny shop that’s changing Honolulu’s ice cream game with flavors that really—we mean really—push the envelope.
Tucked away between Kaimukī’s 8th and 9th avenues, 8 Half Desserts dares to combine flavors like mango and shoyu, white peach and Tabasco salt, pineapple and li hing mui. Mind boggled yet?
There are more than 20 toppings and anywhere from 12 to 25 flavors on any given day, and the toppings are free, as are the samples. There are ice cream pies, sold by the slice ($6) or by the entire pie ($45), cookie sandwiches ($7.50) and ice cream splits ($7). Cups and cones are $4, bowls $6 and 4-ounce prepackaged cups are $3. It’s a cozy walk-in shop without much space, so order quickly if there’s a crowd and eat on the lime-green chairs outside.
Owners Robert Borling and Shane Fivella are creative souls, and they aren’t afraid to experiment, or, as Borling says, “give character.” You might recognize Borling as the mastermind behind RB’s Ice Cream Desserts and its ice cream pies. He’s been in the ice cream business since 1998, working at Don’s Grill on the Big Island where he first began making ice cream pies. Now, his pies are sold at restaurants around town including Kobe’s Steakhouse, Kuni’s, Side Street Inn and, of course, at 8 Half Desserts.
A spread of offerings from 8 Half Desserts, including the fresh fruit used in these treats.
Photos: Shane Fivella
OK, so, back to the flavors. We sampled them all, so let’s start with the mango with shoyu. Fivella puts it the best: “Growing up, I’d sit under the mango tree, grab one mango, rip the skin open and dip it into shoyu. A bite of this, and it took me back to when I was 5 years old, with mango all over my face and down my shirt. Good memories. That’s what it’s all about.”
For those of us who grew up with such memories, no further explanation is needed. That sweet-and-salty combo of rich mango and tart shoyu—it’s childhood in a scoop.
We loved the lychee with furikake—another locally inspired flavor—and the Tabasco salt on chocolate is genius. For those of us who love green tea and coffee, 8 Half’s ice cream flavors actually taste like green tea and coffee, without being overly sweet. The haupia, mango, lychee, liliko‘i, red plum, green apple and honeydew—all the fruit flavors taste exactly like the actual fruit. Yes, the snozzberries taste like snozzberries!
The reason, according to Borling, is that everything is homemade. He says, “We use real fruit or pureed fruit, and source local when we can. We try not to use any artificial flavors and also try to avoid alcohol-based [ones].”
If you’re hankering for the ice cream pies, Borling suggests you order two days ahead of time because they can sell out. We loved the Watermelon Deelite, made with watermelon, honeydew and vanilla with an Oreo crust.
can’t-miss treats: the ice cream cookie sandwiches.
Prices here can run a little high, but Tuesdays are buy one, get one half off. You can get a membership for $25 a year and get $1 off all ice creams, $10 off pies plus a birthday treat.
Oh, and don’t walk away without trying a giant cookie sandwich. Our favorite was the chocolate chip cookie with haupia—the flavors and textures pair well together and the sugar overload is sinfully indulgent. Forget about utensils. Grab with both hands and tackle without fear. You’ll make a mess, but it will be a glorious mess.
3434 Wai‘alae Ave., 630-0184, 8halfdesserts.com
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READ MORE STORIES BY MARIA KANAI