Don’t call it a snow cone

Sarah Schlobohm and Michael Lee

Photo by Cathy Wagner

Momona owners Sarah Schlobohm, Michael Lee (both pictured) and Mahina Gannet set out to expand the food scene in Chico when they opened their restaurant featuring a blend of Hawaiian and Japanese cuisine in 2015. It’s with that same spirit that they started offering Hawaiian shave ice in May. To be clear, this is not like a snow cone or Italian ice—it’s more like an ice sundae with a variety of exotic flavors and it’s typical of the experience they wanted to create with Momona. The first two years in business were a bit of a struggle as they worked to establish themselves, each partner with his or her own focus and responsibilities. Schlobohm, who chatted with the CN&R about the eatery, credits a growing awareness and demand for exotic, yet simple and wholesome foods as a key factor to success. They tested the waters by offering shave ice only on Thursdays and Saturdays while the downtown farmers’ markets were happening, and the response has been good—it’s now available Tuesday-Saturday, from 5-8 p.m., at the restaurant (230 W. Third St.).

Why shaved ice?

Mahina is Hawaiian and I remember going back with her to Hawaii, just for a food trip when we were opening this place. We went to have shave ice and I thought I knew what it was, and I didn’t because I’d just had, like, snow cones. It was life-changing as far as iced desserts go. I was amazed that the texture was so different, so we kind of started talking about doing it someday, but we were like, we only want to do it if we can do this.

What flavors do you have?

We’re making all the syrups out of real fruit purees, which is really exciting because most places just use store-bought syrup. We are using a prickly pear sauce—most of [the flavors] are pretty much Hawaiian flavors—and then there’s a couple where it was just like, I want that! We have a yuzu sake one, a 21-year-old-only shave ice, which is really fun—the adults like that a lot. We have a mochi topping that we’re making here, and all sorts of good stuff. It’s really been fun experimenting.

What’s your most popular flavor?

Hmm, that’s tough. The Sour Plum POG—I recommend it for the traditional Hawaiian toppings. And the POG flavor—the passion fruit, orange and guava—is really popular.

What are your future plans?

We’ll probably just do this for the summer … it really depends on how Chico responds. We have sort of like phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 of plans for the restaurant, so there are some changes we want to make, but they’re probably a while out.