A couple weeks ago, I thought I had tried every last dessert shop in town. I was bored of hitting up the usual places with the usual flavors—no hate to my main man ice cream, but you really are a treat for the summer. So after dinner with a friend in downtown Palo Alto, when I was rattling off the usual list of local sweet-tooth satisfiers, I was surprised to hear a new name.
“SomiSomi,” she said, “It’s the best!” I was skeptical. If I’d never even heard of it, how could it be good? But I tentatively followed her to the storefront, marked with just a neon yellow sign, and realized I had been majorly missing out. The inside was modern and cute, and lent itself to a particularly aesthetic Instagram photo. The line of people waiting to order spoke to its local popularity.
I approached the counter with excitement, quickly scanning the menu. They are most famous for their Korean fish-shaped pastries, which they sell two ways: open and accompanied by soft serve (a.k.a Ah-Boong) or closed and filled (a.k.a taiyaki). I ordered the red bean taiyaki, and in subsequent visits have sampled every other flavor: taro, nutella, custard, oreo, and even cheese. Each one was a tasty, gooey surprise, and I knew I had to talk to the people behind the counter to learn more about my new foodie obsession.
SomiSomi owns 31 locations across the country. I spoke to Won, who has managed Palo Alto’s since September and said his experience so far has been great.
Wan used to be a general manager and corporate strategist in the restaurant industry. He shared, “This job has been a lot simpler than traditional restaurant management. The making of the ice cream base and the batter is a lot easier than trying to marinate beef for Korean recipes, but it’s still a lot of work.”
Alexa Chua, an M-A sophomore who also began working there in September, explained, “For the soft serve, we have a special soft serve milk base that every flavor uses, and then we just add flavoring and mix it all together with a giant immersion blender. The soft serve machines are what turn the liquid mixture into the normal soft serve texture. For the taiyaki, we make a special batter with oil and sake, then pour it onto the pans with a filling and cook them for three and a half minutes.”
According to Won, the warm taiyaki unsurprisingly sells the best in winter, while the soft serve sells the best in summer.
“The most popular flavor for ice cream is cookies and cream, and the most popular flavor for taiyaki is nutella,” he shared.
However, some flavors come and go. Chua said, “‘Swirls’ or combination flavors change weekly, and some flavors change every season. For the holidays we had Cookie Butter, Pecan Praline, and Hotteok, and now we have Black Sesame and Horchata, so make sure to check the SomiSomi Instagram for the seasonal flavors!”
Rush hour is typically after dinner for SomiSomi. He said, “Evening time and nighttime are three times busier than daytime.”
Wan employs a team that mainly consists of high school and college students, although he is looking for full-time employees.
Check out SomiSomi at 440 University Avenue, Palo Alto to get your own flavorful fish!