Real Sports Bar & Grill

I am not a huge sports fan and usually only go to sports bars if I am meeting up with friends. However, if you're an avid sports fan then I am sure you'd enjoyed Real Sports Bar & Grill to watch the latest games. I believe that this establishment is one of the largest ones in Toronto with its abundance of space, and multi-screens along the walls.

A girl friend of mine loves this place and decided to host a small gathering here one afternoon with a total of 8 people. Everyone got there around 9 pm. However, I had a prior engagement and couldn't make it until 10 pm. My friend greeted me outside of the sports bar and shared her frustrations; as the waitress had "just taken their orders" a few minutes before I came. They had waited nearly an hour to get their orders in despite the capacity not being a full house. As a disclaimer, the above information was second-hand as I wasn't present during the wait.


Upon entering the dim lit sports-centric establishment; I noticed that the decor was very sleek and more on the upscale end. There were several flat screens throughout the bar with different sport games on. Real Sports Bar & Grill is spacious with ample seating from booths, bar seats, tables, to stools seating. They also have a large bar at the front of the establishment with several beers on tap; priced between $6 to $11.




The menu offers a wide range of bar food such as appetizers, chicken wings, salads, sandwiches, burgers, ribs, and steaks. The food items are slightly priced higher than the average sports bars but you have to take into account of its location next to the Air Canada Centre and how the establishment positioned themselves as more "higher end".


The Real Sports Nachos ($17.49 / party size) [three cheese blend, jalapenos, green onion, pico de gallo & sour cream] was of a good size, and definitely shareable. You have a choice of adding either guacamole, chili, BBQ chicken or BBQ pulled pork for an extra $4.00.


One of my favorite food is probably chicken wings, so this was a no-brainer for me as I flipped through the menu. I decided on the 1/2 dozen chicken wings ($14.49) with a side of fries ($2.99). There were a choice of 15 different sauces and I got the Thai sweet chili. According to a little printed tidbit on the menu; this was the sauce that got the chef hired at Real Sports Bar & Grill. The large wings were coated evenly with the sweet sauce, and came with a small portion of carrot and celery with Caesar sauce. I liked that the wings were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The fries came out in a mini deep-fryer basket which I thought was pretty cute.


One of my friends got the Canadian Flat Bread Board ($14.49) [pepperoni, bacon, portobello mushroom and double cheese]. The flat bread was quite delicious and extremely cheesy which I liked.


The Real Sports Burger ($13.49) [Canadian AAA ground beef served with chopped lettuce, tomato, onion and Real Sports sauce]. It's an extra $3.00 if you want to add sweet potato fries to your burger meal.

The wings that I ordered was an individual serving. If you want to share with others, then there's the 1 dozen wings ($27.49). The two couples who shared this platter also chose Thai sweet chili as their wing sauce.


The service wasn't completely unbearable, but it was average at best. The wait for the food and bill afterwards was a bit of a wait. Based on the reviews online; service is either a hit or a miss for patrons. Also, there is a 18% service charge for groups of 6 people or more (even if you ask for separate bills).

The overall atmosphere of the sports bar was good though. People are either chatting amongst their group of friends or attentively watching the games on the multi-screens. There weren't any big games happening that day so it wasn't overly loud at all. I can't imagine how busy or loud it would be on any finals night but it does sound fun (if you're a sports fan).



RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3.8/5
Service: 2.7/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3.6/5
Price: $$
 
Address: 15 York St, Toronto, ON, M5J 0A3

Real Sports Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Pho Xe Lua (Train)

If you're looking for authentic Vietnamese cuisine then Train (Xe Lua) isn't the place for it. However, it's an okay place to eat after a late night at the club, show, or the movies. It should be noted that the place can get quite busy post-clubbing on a Friday or Saturday night as it's one of the few restaurants that are open super late in Chinatown.


I have been to Train (Xe Lua) a few times after nights out with friends in the past few years. However, this review is based on a more recent dinner experience (about 2 months ago). The restaurant isn't that hard to miss with its bright red sign with a cartoonish train on it, and it's located on the upper level.

The minimalist decor and non-existent service isn't very appealing to first time customers. However, there are a few positives such as the prices are affordable, menu is rather extensive, and the food usually arrives out pretty quickly. Like I mentioned previously, don't expect to be warmly greeted by the employees here. It's basically a place for a quick bite to eat, hence its fast turnover rate.


The pork chop on rice with steamed egg ($7.50) arrived on a white plate with a good ration of rice and a thin slice of pork chop. The pork chop was sliced so thin, and too sweet for my taste buds. The meat did not taste like Vietnamese cuisine to me, but had a rather distinct Chinese flavor to it. I actually don't recommend this dish at all.


The minced shrimp on sugar cane (2 pieces) [#608] ($5.00) were rather small but tasted decent. 


My second half of the meal was the BBQ chicken, grill meatballs and spring rolls vermicelli [#316] ($8.00). I liked the BBQ chicken as it was grilled well and rather flavorful with a hint of lemongrass and fish sauce. However, I was not a fan of the spring roll. The texture was rather mushy instead of crispy and it came out cold.



The mango and durian milkshakes ($3.50 each) were surprisingly good. I really liked the fact that they made it fresh and the drinks weren't pre-made. My durian shake was full of flavor, and it didn't taste watered down at all. Xe Lua's milkshakes are on the top of my list whenever I'm craving for a cool drink.

RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 3/5
Service: 3/5
Overall Dining Experience: 3/5
Price: $
 
Address: 254 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON, M5T 2C2

Shinto Shrines & Temples in Japan

SHINTO SHRINES

Komainu: They are a pair statue of lion-dogs that are found at the front of the shrines. They are located on each side of the entrance, and are used to ward off any nearby evil spirits. You will often see two komainu dogs erected directly across from one another; one has its mouth open while the other has its mouth closed.


Inari: Instead of komainu dogs; there are many shrines who chose to have Inari (fox-gods) guarding the place of worship instead.


Torii Gate: The large gate structure is used to mark the entrances and exits of the shrines in Japan. 


Chozuya: This is a water pavilion that can be found at the entrances of shrines. It's a ritual to wash one's hands and mouth to purify themselves before entering the main Shinto shrines.

1. Take the ladle to scoop up some water with your right hand, and wash your left. Then switch to wash your right hand.
2. You can take a small sip of water to rinse your mouth.
3. Return the ladle back to the water.

 Suzu: The bell is attached to a structure on the grounds of the shrines, and rang by worshipers.

Honden: This is the main sanctuary of a shrine in Japan.

Omikuji:  They are paper fortunes that you can get by shaking a box containing bamboo sticks. Each stick has different numbers written on them, and you'd go into the cupboard with the correct number (as on your chosen stick), and select a fortune. The fortune is then tied onto a branch that's on the ground of the shrine for good luck.

Tip: Some popular shrines are Meiji Shrine (Tokyo), Toshogu Shrine (Nikko), Itsukushima Shrine (Miyajima), Hakone Shrine (Hakone), Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto).

TEMPLES

Gate: The gate marks the entrance of the temple.

Main Hall (kon-dō): This is where the main service is conducted in the Buddhist temple.

Pagoda: A multi-tier structure that can be found on the grounds of a temple in Japan. Many of the ones that I saw in Japan were either three or five story high.


Tip: Some popular temples are Sensoji Temple (Tokyo), Tennoji Temple (Osaka), Kiyomizu Temple (Kyoto), Kinkakuji (Kyoto), Naritasan (Narita), Todaiji Temple (Nara)

Sources: Wikipedia and Japan Guide

Day #15 in Japan [Koyasan] / Shojoshin-in Temple

Shukubo in Mt. Koya (Koyasan)

About one month prior to the big trip to Japan; I made a reservation to experience a temple lodging stay for one night. The reservation for two people was made online on the official website of the Koyasan Tourist Association and Shukubo. I am not used to the Japanese-style toilets so I opted for the modern Japanese style (bath/toilet common style) arrangement, which was ¥11,000 a night (per person). So our one night stay for two people was ¥22,000 ($232.00 CAD).

Tues, Dec 24, 2013 (Day #15)

A shukubo is an accommodation that allows you to stay in a Japanese temple or shrine for the night, and enables you to experience the culture. You are given your own personal room, and there are multiple washroom facilities throughout the temple. Additionally, many of the temples have Japanese hot springs (onsen) on their proprieties for their visitors to enjoy.

The Journey From Kobe, Japan

We had spent the first half of the day exploring Kobe and eating some really good AYCE BBQ in Kobe Harborland. We lost track of the time, and stayed in Kobe slightly longer than we had planned. So instead of leaving for Kobe Station before 1 pm; we ended up getting there around 2 pm. We quickly purchased our tickets to Shin-Imamiya Station from Kobe Station and off we went.

 The following is the JR train route that we took to get to Koya-san from Kobe; the entire duration of the trip was about 3 hours long.

 1) JR Kobe Station --> Osaka Station --> Namba Station (40 minute)
* Get on the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line at Kobe Station and arrive @ Osaka Station. Once you're at Osaka Station, you need to get on the Osaka City Subway-Midosuji Line to Namba Station. 

2) Namba Station --> Hashimoto Station (Wakayama) (50 minute)
* At Namba/Nankai-Namba Station, get on the Nankai-Koya Line to Hashimoto Station (Wakayama).

3) Hashimoto Station (Wakayama) --> Gokurakubashi Station (45 min)
* At Hashimoto Station, get on the Nankai-Koya Line and get off at Gokurakubashi Station. 
4) Gokurakubashi Station (cable car) --> Koyasan Station (5 min)
* There will be a cable car waiting for you at Gokurakubashi Station. Get on the cable car and get off at Koyasan Station.

 * Koyasan Station will be the last station, where you will then get on the city bus which should take you straight to your temple lodging. 

 Temple Lodging 

So after a very long journey to get to our temple; we finally arrived at Shojoshin-in Temple. This is the name of the shukubo that we stayed in for the night of Christmas Eve.


Shojin-ryori (Buddhist cuisine)

Dinner was promptly served at 5:30 pm, and we were a little late. However, our monk in the head office was very kind, and quickly checked us into our room. He showed us around for a few minutes, and asked us to follow him downstairs. We followed behind, and were escorted into a room where our dinners were warmly waiting for us.


After dinner, we went back to our room to unpack and relax. It was extremely dark outside by 7 pm and there was very little lighting on the street so we didn't want to go outside. I think Koyasan is livelier in the summertime as I have seen pictures of visitors exploring after dark. However, the temperature was around 0 degrees that day so no one was outside.

There were a few things provided in our room such as a tea kettle, cookies, souvenir chopsticks, tv set, and best of all .... FREE WIFI!! I was able to contact my family to tell them that I was doing great as I didn't get a chance to speak to them earlier. I didn't spend the entire night surfing the internet; rather I read a book that provided insightful information on Koyasan, Buddhism, and about the other great sights in the city while sipping hot green tea.

The traditional architecture does not allow for any central heating throughout the temple. Therefore, a heater was provided in every room. Be sure to bring something warm to wear if you're here in December as the hallway was freezing cold.



The Happy Hooker

Happy Hooker; a seafood restaurant on Dundas St W, recently celebrated their one year anniversary about two weeks ago. They were serving up some weekly specials for the occasion.


Prior to their renovations earlier this year; I decided to get some takeout since I was in the area.The restaurant is situated near a 7-11 and isn't that hard to miss with their bright blue signage. Inside, the space is somewhat small with a few tables and chairs lined up against the wall. The place has an outdoorsy feel with its wooden panels, paintings, random items like a Pacman machine, and even a washroom marked "outhouse".






I love seafood, so I couldn't resist getting their lobster roll ($14.00). Although the bun wasn't very big; it was buttery and filled with a generous amount of lobster. It's great that they didn't skimp out on the lobster as there were some big chunks in there. Additionally, the toasted bun went perfectly well with the creamy mayo. I believe that this particular item is available only from Friday to Sunday. The lobster roll at The Happy Hooker is one of the better ones that the city of Toronto has to offer, and I highly recommend it.


The fries that came with the lobster roll was okay, as they weren't very crispy for my taste.

Their menu also includes other seafood offerings such as tacos, kale salad, pacific cod, and shrimp corn dogs; just to name a few. I also ended up getting both the shrimp taco ($3.50) and Cali Baja taco ($3.50) to try. Personally out of the two, I liked the shrimp taco a lot more as I found it more flavorful.


RATINGS:

Quality of Food: 4/5
Service: Take-out
Overall Dining Experience: 4/5
Price: $ || Online Menu
 
Address: 887 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, M6J 2P8

Happy Hooker on Urbanspoon

[Manga] Comic Phoenix 2014

 What will you do if everyone was born with Super Power, but you are the only one that wasn't? "I want to be human again..." Phoenix.
 Hypothetically, if I were to have any superhero powers ... I'd like the power of teleporting. That way, I can freely teleport myself to various restaurants around the city or even the world. Obviously, in reality this can never happen but in the comics world; anything is possible.

A friend of mine, Kai Hong Cheung, recently started a new comic venture with a buddy of his. The project is called Comic Phoenix 2014, and they are currently looking for funding to produce the 68 page black and white manga.

Mockup COVER
THE SYNOPSIS "PHOENIX VOL.1

Humans, a race that has never been content with the privileges one possesses, never rest to try and surpass God. As a result, countless years of research and resources had been devoted to genetic engineering. This led the world to successfully create the next chain of evolution—inherit super powers at birth. Eventually, the number of super humans grew, leaving natural human beings to be extinct. Humans tried so hard to become something so great, but all they’ve done, is made themselves more inhumane.

Crime rates increased and greed in people's heart grew bigger as more and more people began to misuse their abilities. Ones with great power but twisted hearts gathered to enslave and threaten the weak. Years of disorders passed and those that could stand and fight rose to a war, known as "The War of Hope". As years went by, the world started to crumble. Both sides started to wither away. To salvage what was left the “Act of Settlement” was implemented. Academies were established to educate those with great power to maintain order, help control their power and preserve peace. However, as the world returns to its order, a dark force rises, to submerge the world in darkness again.

The story begins in "The Underground Lab" where Henry Emmerich, a genius researcher, attempts to reverse the effects of genetic mutations. His son, Frank Emmerich, possesses super human strength which is deemed dangerous by the Academies and is targeted by their elite forces. As a result, Henry and his partner, Lucifer, re-initiate the "Project Phoenix" to eliminate the seed of disaster their ancestors had once planted. As the story unfolds, what awaits Henry and his fatherly love attempt to untwist Frank's fate?

FIND OUT IN OUR FIRST VOL. of "PHOENIX".

Character creation.
The underground lab concept art.
Kurenai concept art.
Frank Emmerich concept art.
Vol 1, Page 12.
Phoenix concept art/ poster.
Chapter 2 cover.
Chapter 1 cover - The underground lab.
If you're interested in the project, then please visit their Kickstarter @ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1940786586/phoenix-volume-1 for more information.

 WHAT IS PHOENIX?
"Phoenix" is a 68 page black and white manga. It is a comedy, action, tragedy, and elements of superpowers.

WHAT'S IN THE COLLECTION EDITION?
The collection edition features a 8.5 x 11 82 page art book that contains concept arts, sketches, and comics of the phoenix.

WHERE IS YOUR FUNDING GOING?
To Publish Vol.1 of "Phoenix" and the Collection Edition artwork of Phoenix.

WHY SHOULD YOU BACK "PHOENIX"?

All the funding received will go towards distribution, publishing and more importantly creating more high quality content. My passion and dreams is making comics. Phoenix is just the start of something bigger. It is a story that brings up unique themes among philosophical issues in a futuristic setting. I want to continue telling this story and with your help I can.

HOW CAN YOU CONTACT THE TEAM MEMBERS?