Bao Down Gastro Bar and Pub

Bao Down‘s Gastown location has been around for a while, but they also opened up their Gastro Bar and Pub in Olympic Village earlier this year. S and I decided to check it out for dinner.

The interior is quite casual with a cool modern vibe and colourful painting on the wall.

On one side, they also have a bar.

Fraser Valley Huli Huli Chicken

We started off with the Fraser Valley Huli Huli Chicken which came with a chicken thigh and breast in a Hawaiian marinade, topped with a cane vinegar glaze, tamari, and a side of asian slaw and garlic fried rice. The chicken was tender with just the right flavour, but the cane vinegar glze was way too acidic. It tasted as if they put too much vinegar and didn’t taste the sauce. This made the asian slaw extremely acidic and it also seeped to the bottom of the garlic fried rice. The garlic fried rice at the top tasted pretty good though with the garlic flavour extremely strong.

Locally Sourced, Local, Organic, Free Range, Free Run, Antibiotic Free, Hormone Free, Unvaccinated and Socially Adapted Chicken Wings

Onto the extremely long named Chicken Wings which we chose the crispy garlic & fish sauce caramel flavour. There is also Thai spicy or salt and pepper. S can take really salty food but this had to be the saltiest thing we’ve ever ate! They literally dumped fish sauce onto the chicken wings… It was pretty much inedible. After we posted about this on Instagram, the owner told us that they had received a different brand of fish sauce from the supplier. However, I would think that the chefs still taste the sauce they make before they put it on the dish. Just didn’t make sense to us. I have to say, their batter is really crispy though. What a shame that the sauce ruined everything.

Bao Chicka Bao Bao

Onto what Bao Down was first made famous for: their baos. we tried the Bao Chicka Bao Bao which came with garlic and lemongrass fried chicken, daikon, carrot, crisp garlic, fish sauce glaze and garlic mayo. These were my favourite of the night with the chicken having a beautiful batter and the sauces not being overbearing. The bao itself was light and fluffy. I highly suggest sticking to their baos, but you will only find a select few of their baos at this location.

Halo Halo

For dessert, I suggested to try their Halo Halo, which came with evaporated milk, banana roll, red beans, young coconut, coconut jelly, palm nuts, and purple yam ice cream. This again, was a huge mess. The dessert was huge for the price we paid, but their shaved ice was not shaved ice. It felt like they had a huge block of ice and just mashed it up so the pieces of ice were large, jagged and sharp. I don’t expect a snow like powder ice, but I would expect at least a simple shaved ice machine type of ice. This ruined the texture of the dessert as the pieces were too large.

In addition, the food took forever to come. We waited for more than 40 minutes to get our food after ordering and the restaurant wasn’t even fully occupied. We were told by the owner later after our complaints that their deep fryer had broke so only one was available. Still, I would’ve appreciated the server letting us know why, but we barely got any service.

Loco Moco

Because we were extremely upset with our experience, the owner later contacted us on Instagram to invite us back for a free meal. We notified him the date and time we would arrive of which he confirmed, but when we arrived for brunch that day, the servers were not aware of this arrangement. In fact, no table was set aside for us. Luckily, there were two spots at the bar, so we took the seats. I mean, imagine if the place was full? Would we have to wait or come back another time? The owner was also not there, which I was surprised, but even if he was busy, I would’ve expected him to communicate to the staff about our arrival. It felt very unprofessional.

Anyways, enough of the talk about service. As we chose to come on a weekend at lunch, they served the brunch menu, so the menu items were quite different. S got the Loco Moco which came with steamed rice topped with a hamburger patty, poached egg and mushroom gravy. The sauce had an Asian flavour, but we found that it lacked depth in flavour. It was okay.

Fried Chicken and Waffles

For myself, I had the Fried Chicken and Waffles. Some of the fried chicken pieces were moist while the others were extremely dry. The dry pieces were the small ones of course, so they should have controlled the cooking by taking out the smaller pieces first. I also found the seasoning to be too salty again for my liking. I feel like their food is quite salty overall.

Banger Bao

The Banger Bao was a surprise and I quite enjoyed it. It tasted just like a Egg McMuffin! It was filled with a sausage patty, scrambled egg, and processed cheese.

Overall, we were quite disappointed with the food at Bao Down Gastro Bar and Pub. Even after giving them a second try, we can’t say that we have changed our opinion on the execution of the food. However, the baos are the stars here so I would revisit at their Gastown location for the baos. Price-wise, they are quite expensive based on what I get. If the food was better, I wouldn’t mind paying a higher price. However, with the unprofessional service and average food, I feel like I have other restaurant options to satisfy me.

They are opening another location in Gastown and San Francisco, so they must be doing something right. Perhaps their food is just not the right taste for us?

NOTE: All food were complimentary during brunch on our second visit.

Pros:
– Baos are great!
– Cool ambiance

Cons:
– Execution of food is poor, most dishes are too salty
– We felt service was unprofessional and lacking while dining

Price Range: $25-40

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 2 Service: 2 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 3 Overall: 2

Bao Down Gastropub & Raw Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Rain or Shine Ice Cream

Rain or Shine Ice Cream has been around for quite some time now and they have even opened up their second location on Cambie. For whatever reason, I had never visited the shop and thank god I finally did! MH, MW, S and I visited the Cambie store in the afternoon on a sunny day after lunch.

They make their waffles fresh in store but you can also have your ice cream in a cup. Their signature flavours are always on the menu, and the seasonal flavours will switch up based on what ingredients are fresh. “The ice cream is made from scratch in house using fresh, natural and sustainable whole ingredients, source locally, seasonally and organically whenever possible.”

Malted Milk Chocolate and Honey Lavender

We ended up choosing the Malted Milk Chocolate (on top) which features homemade honeycomb (free of corn syrup) coated in 70% dark chocolate and mixed into a Belgian milk chocolate base. Malted Barley is added to enhance the richness of this ice cream. We absolutely loved the crunch of the malted chocolate along with the sweetness of the honeycomb. The Honey Lavender (bottom) is made with organic and floral alfalfa honey from Aldergrove Farms paired with lavender from Tuscan farms in Maple Ridge. I’m a huge fan of floral, so this was my cup of tea!

Overall, we loved the ice cream here and the creative flavours they offer. The price is on par with the other gourmet ice cream shops in Vancouver and I felt the portions were pretty good for a double scoop (perfect for sharing). And did you know that their ice cream is 100% dairy with no eggs, no modified milk ingredients or artificial extracts? What goes into our food is really important these days and ice cream is no exception! Will be returning for some more ice cream before summer ends, but I guess they are open rain or shine anyways!

Pros:
– Creative and tasty flavours
– Seasonal flavours so you don’t get sick of the same ones!

Cons:
– Can have massive line ups on sunny days
– Waffle cones are okay in my opinion. I like the ones at Timothy’s more.

Price Range: $5-10

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4.5 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: 4 Overall: 4

Rain or Shine Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

AnnaLena

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For my birthday, I gave a list of restaurants I wanted to try to S and told him to surprise me with something. He ended up choosing AnnaLena which I was super excited about! Located in the Kits area just before the Burrard Bridge, the kitchen is run by the talented executive chef, Michael Robbins.

The interior is whimsical but cool with modern art and lego toys. The restaurant is quite small, so I’ve heard that people have had to make reservations well in advance. I’m guessing S did just that to secure us a spot.

Because S had mentioned it was my birthday when he made reservations, I guess they noted it down and surprised us both with a complimentary cocktail. That was a really nice touch and the cocktail was delicious!

Chicken

As I had just came from happy hour, I really wasn’t that hungry so we ended up just trying out a few dishes. First was the Chicken, which was buttermilk fried, with a sesame dashi mayo, and accompanied with charred shishito peppers. These were so light and crispy! And the Asian style mayo was a nice twist and complemented the chicken so well.

Scallop

The second dish we tried was the Scallop which were seared, and came with smoked pork jowl, roast turnips, pickled apples, and cauliflower puree. The scallops were cooked to perfection without them being rubbery and the pork jowl was tender with a nice rebound texture.

Chocolate

For dessert, we had the Chocolate, which featured white chocolate mousse, sesame toasted mango, and passion fruit sorbet. Perhaps I took too long to take pictures, but the sorbet began to melt quite quickly. Still, I loved the different textures in this dessert and the strong passion fruit flavour in the sorbet.

Overall, just based on the few items we tried, I already enjoyed AnnaLena a lot and am looking forward to return and try the rest of the items. The portions are quite small for the price, but the quality and execution of the dishes are spot on. A great place if you want to celebrate a special occasion.

Pros:
– Quality and well executed dishes
– Professional service

Cons:
– Portions are on the smaller side for the price
– You’ll need to make reservations way in advance!

Price Range: $30-60

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 5 Service: 4.5 Ambiance: 3.5 Parking: 4 Overall: 4.5

AnnaLena Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Liu Yi Shou Hot Pot

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NOTE: All food and beverages were complimentary but all opinions are based on my personal experience.

As part of a preview for Chopstick Fest, Jacqueline, Dennis, Stephen, Kym, and I were invited to try Liu Yi Shou Hot Pot Restaurant on Robson St., which will be a participiating restaurant for the festival. The festival will run from October 15th – 30th, 2016 and will have a similar concept to Dine Out Vancouver, but feature all Chinese restaurants.

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Liu Yi Shou is a Chong Qing style hot pot chain famous in China. It first brought their chain to Richmond under the name Thumbs Up Hot Pot, which I have yet to try. I think the two restaurant’s menus are pretty much the same though. The interior consists of booth seats with air ventilation from the prior barbecue restaurant.

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I love sauce bars so this is always an added differentiation. Here, I think you pay $2.50 to mix your own sauce with a large variety of ingredients. To be honest though, I usually stick with the simple soy sauce and satay!

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Chong Qing Spicy Broth and Wild Mushrooms Broth

We chose to split the pot in half and have two soup bases. One was non-spicy and was filled with mushrooms and goji berries. The other was their famous Chong Qing Spicy Broth at a medium spice level. They told us that their spicy is quite spicy, so we settled with medium. The medium was a spicy numbing flavour, as expected with Chong Qing style cuisine. However, I think this was tolerable, especially when we had the other soup base to eat in between. I’d definitely say I’ve had spicier at my Szechuan friend’s house.

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Fish Tofu

They have all your typical hot pot ingredients, including fish tofu, fish ball, enoki, bean curd, tofu, lotus root, potato and taro.

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Corn

We also sampled corn, luncheon meat, shrimp paste, fish filet, shrimp, and deep fried pork. All were very standard with everything you could find at your typical Cantonese style hot pot.

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Supreme Lamb

Meat is everything for me at hot pot, so I usually choose a hot pot restaurant based on the quality of meat. We were able to sample Supreme Beef, Supreme Lamb, and Sliced Beef. I loved the Supreme Lamb as it was buttery and tender. It also wasn’t gamey at all so many of the bloggers who don’t normally eat lamb didn’t even realize it was lamb! The Supreme Beef could be slightly more tender if it has more fat, but it wasn’t bad for sure. The Sliced Beef was the most chewy as expected because of the thick cut, but still very fresh.

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Overall, we were all pleasantly surprised by the quality of food at Liu Yi Shou. They are famous for their spicy hot pot, so definitely give that a try if you love spice. If you’re looking to fill up though, your bill might add up since it’s a la carte, rather than AYCE. However, the quality of food is therefore better than AYCE. Oh and for all you hot pot newbies, they have a list showing the time needed to cook different menu items! That’s something I haven’t seen before for sure. And did I mention, this is the only Chinese style hot pot you will find along the Robson/downtown area?

Liuyishou Hotpot Robson Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beard Papa Sweets Cafe

I’m sure most of you know about Beard Papa by now. It was the hype when it was first brought here from Japan, but they have locations everywhere now that it’s pretty accessible to everyone. However, a year ago, they closed down their stall inside of Richmond Centre and opened up a cafe under the London Drugs complex on No. 3 Road.

This got me really intrigued especially when I noticed that there were always customers sitting in the cafe everytime I drove by, no matter what time it was. Finally, I suggested to S that we take a small dinner and instead fill up with desserts! The cafe here has more than just their famous cream puffs and I could see why people liked to chill here. There were a mix of young and old and it was a great place to sit and chat since it is typically not packed.

Red Bean with Green Tea Ice Cream Waffle (+mochi)

We started off with the Red Bean with Green Tea Ice Cream Waffle but we paid extra to get mochi filling inside our waffle. The preset version with mochi inside doesn’t come with green tea or red bean. This reminded me of the time we first tried mochi waffles in Taipei. This was delicious with the warm and cold mix and is a great item to share with friends.

Cocoa Puff

Onto the cream puffs. We didn’t want to try the original ones since we’ve all had those. This time, we tried out their Cocoa Puff, which is essentially the same as the original but the puff itself is cocoa flavoured and the centre is filled with vanilla cream.

To be honest, I found the puff to be rather dense, so I much prefer their original batter.

Eclair

The Eclair was essentially what the name is. It’s the original cream puff with vanilla cream filling and dipped with chocolate sauce on top. I quite liked this as I’m a sucker for chocolate and this gave just the right amount of sweetness and chocolate flavour without the dense puff that the Cocoa Puff had.

Chocolate Fondant

Last but not least, we tried the Chocolate Fondant which also comes with the flavour choice of green tea.

Unfortunately, the chocolate did not ooze out as much as I wanted. These fondants are pre-made and then they reheat them so perhaps that’s why the ooze isn’t as apparent as those in restaurants. This was just average and too sweet for me personally.

Overall, we quite enjoyed Beard Papa’s Sweet Cafe. I think this would be a great spot to catch up with friends over drinks and sweets without having to crowd at the typical shaved ice and bubble tea joints. Service was also very friendly. Other than sweets, they also have savoury snacks and sandwiches, which seems a little odd. But I haven’t tried these, so I can’t comment.

Pros:
– Wide selection of both sweets and savoury
– Service is friendly and good spot to chill

Cons:
– Some hits and misses
– Many of their desserts seem to be pre-made so may not be super fresh based on traffic

Price Range: $10-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3 Service: 3.5 Ambiance: 3 Parking: 4 Overall: 3

Beard Papa's Sweet Cafe  Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

PappaRoti

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NOTE: All food and beverages were complimentary but all opinions are based on my personal experience.

PappaRoti began in Malaysia and opened their first North American store in Vancouver on Robson St. a year ago. Thanks to Sharon, a group of food bloggers were able to try a selection of their items.

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The interior reminds me of a Blenz, with a variety of different drinks and quick bites. Very spacious and I saw many people on their laptops working away.

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Crazy for Kaya

Of course, they are famous for their freshly baked caramel coffee buns. They are twice baked so that the outside is crisp and crunchy, and pillowy soft, buttery and rich on the inside. They feature a variety of different toppings and sides and Crazy for Kaya features kaya and honey. Reminds me of kaya toast which I have a love for!

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The Works

You can also choose The Works where you are able to select your choice of any four toppings. Here, they paired strawberries, whipped cream, ice cream and bananas.

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The Classic

I think my favourite was still The Classic which features nutella and banana. The two flavours are just perfect complements and paired great with the buttery bun.

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Rise and Shine

Rise and Shine features Pappa cream cheese and jam on the side. Be sure to eat these fresh from the oven to best enjoy them. I tried them cold and they weren’t as good for sure.

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Choco Banana Pappa Rollie

Their newest addition is the Pappa Rollie. These are made with a croissant dough but has the same sweet and crispy exterior. So flaky and I liked the chocolate filling inside with banana flavouring. They also have a Coconut Pappa Rollie

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Roast Beef, Chicken Chipotle, Apple Chicken Blue Cheese, Turkey & Brie, Vegan Moroccan

I always associated PappRoti with coffee buns and had no idea they had other menu items. Well turns out you can also get sandwiches and wraps here! My favourite was the Turkey & Brie.

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They also have salads including the Island Salad and Tuscan Salad, all of which make a healthy meal.

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Other than their gourmet coffees, teas and smoothies, they also carry drinks from other brands, including Revel Juice.

Overall, I really enjoyed the coffee buns but was surprised that their other items were just as good. PappaRoti is the perfect spot to grab a quick snack or even a meal.

PappaRoti Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lift Bar & Grill

Looking for a spot to go happy hour, I suggested we try Lift Bar & Grill. It’s situated by the water along the seawall before you enter Stanley Park.

The restaurant has an awesome patio outside perfect for the summer.

Happy hour is from 3-6pm daily, but unfortunately, you can only sit at the bar for happy hour. The bar seats around 10-15 people, so be sure to arrive early!

The decor inside is elegant and perfect for date night. I would highly recommend sitting outside if the weather is nice, or by the glass windows inside to enjoy the views.

Their happy hour menu is pretty good with a variety of food other than their select drinks. Plus, they have buck-a-shuck oysters! As you can see, the prices for happy hour isn’t extremely cheap though. Their regular menu is quite pricey normally, so this is already discounted.

Red Truck Lager, House White Wine

We started off with some drinks which were part of the happy hour menu, all for $5.

Buck-a-Shuck Oysters

I wanted some oysters, so I got the Buck-a-Shuck Oysters. I don’t remember the names of the oysters but they were quite small, but sweet. I think they could’ve done a better job with the shucking though as I found some bits of shell in my oysters. The typical cocktail sauce, Tabasco and vinaigrette comes on the side.

Lobster Mac & Cheese

As I was quite hungry, I decided to get the Lobster Mac & Cheese which was on deal for $10. It came with atlantic lobster, grana padano white cheddar and mascarpone cheese.

This was a pretty good deal since there were chunks of lobster meat in my mac n cheese! Usually, you just find little strands of meat in this dish, but I was surprised how much lobster I found in here. It’ll definitely fill you up as the cheese is very heavy. I also loved the crispy coating of bread crumbs on top.

Fish & Chips

S got the Fish & Chips which normally comes with a single piece of local beer battered halibut and french fries. He was quite hungry, so he asked to add another piece of halibut. The normal size is $14 and I think the additional piece was around $6. So it came to around $20 which isn’t too bad for getting fish and chips (halibut) at a high end restaurant.

Overall, we were quite pleased with the happy hour selection of food and drinks at Lift Bar & Grill. However, service was pretty much non-existent. We sat at the bar without menus for the longest time and we ended up having to ask for the menus. It also took incredibly long to get our bill. I would hope that their service is much better during regular hours, since this is the perfect place to take your date to, but if service is so poor, I wouldn’t risk ruining your date night here. Ambiance is spot on though!

Pros:
– Beautiful ambiance and views
– Great selection for happy hour – $1 oysters, deals on food and drinks

Cons:
– Service was poor
– Not exactly cheap even for happy hour

Price Range: $20-30

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 3.5 Service: 1.5 Ambiance: 5 Parking: N/A Overall: 3.5

Lift Bar and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beta5

NOTE: All desserts provided in the media event in the first section were complimentary. All opinions are based on my own experience.

Beta5‘s 2016 summer collection, ‘livin’s easy’ launched last month and we were invited to attend their media event to try out all the new items. Beta5 is located in an industrial area which is not transit friendly, but so worth the trip!

The shop front is quite small but you can see the chefs at work in the back which is pretty cool.

Remember to come here early as these goodies run out quick. Many times, I arrived near closing and they sold out of many of the flavours I wanted.

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Cherry Cola Cream Puffbotanical cola custard, Okanagan cherry jelly, whipped vanilla ganache, fizzy cherry chocolate, amarena cherry

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I really enjoyed that fizz in the chocolate. It was like eating those popping candy!

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Pina Colada Cream Puffcoconut ash choux, pineapple curd, whipped coconut-lime ganache, black chocolate rings

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One of my favourite desserts of the night was the Pina Colada Cream Puff. Something about it was so mysterious being all black! But inside was filled with a fruit pineapple curd and was perfect for the summer!

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Lime Spritzer Cream Puffmint-lime curd, greek yogurt pannacotta, cucumber meringue, cucumber pearls

Refreshing and perfect for the summer!

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Ants On a Log Eclairmilk chocolate and peanut whipped ganache, celery whipped ganache, white chocolate celery stick, peanut glaze

This was super witty as the eclair tasted just like peanut butter on celery! Perfect for those who enjoy celery.

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S’More Eclair68% dark chocolate mousse, 46% milk chocolate mousse, toasted vanilla meringue, cinnamon graham cracker crust

This brings back memories of having s’mores in front of the campfire in the summertime. Tastes just like a S’more!

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Neopolitan Eclairvanilla cremeux, strawberry cremeux, chocolate cremeux, caramelized white chocolate crunch, neopolitan whipped ganache ice cream in a chocolate cone

Another one of my favourites and who can resist how cut this looks! Gobble it quick before the ice cream melts!

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The 2016 summer collection also includes some new flavours of their delectable chocolates. The new flavours include Cinnamon S’more, Strawberry Daiquiri, Raspberry Lemonade, Cucumber Cooler, Root Beer Float, and Celery + Peanut.

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The flavours are bold and bright and bring back childhood memories of summer.

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Mint Chocolate Sundae

We also got to try their Mint Chocolate Sundae which is part of their ice cream social.

Beta5’s Ice Cream Social happens every Saturday from 1-5pm. They serve up sundaes, ice creams and sorbets and they have a special flavour every week.

On another occasion, separate from the media event, S and I checked out their ice cream social which featured the Raspberry Earl Grey Sundae.

Raspberry Earl Grey Sundae

This was so delicious! It came with earl grey sundae, raspberry swirl ice cream, fresh raspberry compote, raspberry-earl grey macarons and chocolate garnishes. Loved how creamy the ice cream was!

Signature Chocolate Sundae

One of the sundaes they featured in July was the Signature Chocolate Sundae. We were able to choose from a variety of sorbets and ice creams and the toppings were preset. We went with the cola sorbet and it was so refreshing! I loved the textures of the different chocolate garnishes as some had a nice crunch.

Overall, we had an amazing time at the media event as well as our own visit to Beta 5. Definitely worth checking out during the summer as you can grab some ice cream (which is only available during summer) and take a box of the summer collection goodies home! Makes a perfect gift too!

BETA5 Chocolates Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato