McCully Shopping Center's Snow Factory

Strawberry with azuki beans, mochi and condensed milk.

Photo: Michael Keany

We’ve long been fans of McCully Shopping Center’s collection of cheap noodle and curry spots (Pho? Saimin? Hot pot? Thai? You want it, they got it.) But we’ve never ventured into the little dessert place at the end of the center: Snow Factory. This past weekend’s hot, sticky weather changed our minds.

At first glance, you might look at the photos on the wall and mistake the colorful dishes for shave ice. But pay attention to the cheerful slogan: "It’s not shave ice, it’s not ice cream, it’s not yogurt, It’s snow!!!"

It turns out that what you get is, in a literal sense, shaved ice. The flavorings, though—20 variations of syrup and dairy—have been frozen in beforehand. The result is much lighter and finer than traditional shave ice, no gloppy syrup pooling at the bottom of the bowl here. It’s more like a bowl of frozen, dry cotton candy.

The problem is, we really like the gloppy syrup at the bottom of our shave ice. We ordered the No. 11 combo, strawberry with azuki beans, mochi and condensed milk, to replicate our favorite order at Waiola’s, and the Snow Factory’s gooey toppings were the only thing giving the dish any mouth feel. The “snow” was just too dry. We started to understand why the Snow Factory’s website described their dessert as "aesthetically pleasing” and "marvelously stylish." On the plus side, the site also says the snow is just 150 calories per serving, although we’re guessing that doesn’t include the yummy extra toppings.

We’re willing to admit we might be alone in our preference for old-style shave ice. Snow Factory seems to be buzzing with customers every time we pass the place, and a new spot just opened up at Waimalu Shopping Center in Aiea, with a third location planned for Windward City Shopping Center. It may just be time for snow in Hawaii.

McCully Shopping Center, 1960 Kapiolani Blvd., 946-7669,