In the summer of 2002, H Mart, the Korean-American grocery chain, finally arrived in Mesa’s Asian District after years of speculation and delay. Like most H Mart locations, the Mesa store features a food court full of Korean food, offering everything from kimchi fried rice to tofu soups. With six stalls devoted to savory entrees, the limited room remaining is allocated to desserts. One option is a bakery, and the other is a locally based shop devoted to frozen treats. Snowtime, named for its signature shaved ice dish, offers snow and more to follow a meal.
Snowtime is at the back of H Mart food court, the last food service tenant before a corridor leads past a storage area to the restrooms. The grocery itself is at the southwest corner of Dobson Road and Main Street, across from the Sycamore/Main light rail station. Bike racks are found near the grocery entrance, which is distinct from the food court entrance, although both spaces are connected inside the building. The layout of H Mart seems designed to encourage customers to shop first and eat after, but it’s possible to combine the activities in either order.
Living up to its name, Snow is primarily about snow, an east Asian confection in which thinly sliced ice with a texture similar to actual snow is combined with ice cream, condensed milk, and toppings. The Korean version of the treat is known as bingsu, and Snowtime offers its own flavor combinations such as Sweet Sunset with a combination of mango and strawberry or Matcha Love with the distinctive green powder combined with red beans and mochi. Seasonal flavors like caramel apple add other toppings in a celebratory mix of cultural influences.
While there are a growing number of places in the Mesa Asian District and elsewhere in the metropolitan area that serve snow in one form or another, Snowtime attains a higher level of quality than most of what’s out there due to two strengths: First, the snow is perfectly textured, flaky, and lightweight. Unlike real snow a few days after its fall, it doesn’t easily turn into slush. Of equal importance, the layers of the dessert are distinct when served, with the possibility of being mixed with one another by the customer or for each layer to be enjoyed on its own.
The shop’s other distinctive dish draws from the Japanese tradition of taiyaki, soft fish-shaped cakes that can be used as ice cream cones. Customers can order a fish cone that is first filled with Nutella, custard, or red bean paste and then topped with vanilla, chocolate, matcha, or taro ice cream and the finally accessorized with topping such as Oreo crumbs, black sesame, or coconut flakes. A few other items identified on the menu as “signature creations,” including Choco Heaven and a banana split, involve taiyaki that serves as the base of a sort of sundae.
In between the snow and the taiyaki columns of the menu, there is a middle section devoted to sweet beverages, mostly mlk teas with a few spritzers, lattes, and smoothies providing a little variety. Most incorporate either black or oolong tea,often with an additional fruit flavor, and a few add boba. All are good for extinguishing the fire from a spicy serving of kimchi or gochujang from the neighboring food stalls. Exploration of H Mart’s food court can begin just about anywhere, but Snowtime’s desserts makes it often the best place for the journey to end.
1919 W. Main St., Mesa AZ 85201