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

Real Sports Bar & Grill

by on Thursday, March 27, 2014
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 ...
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

Pho Xe Lua (Train)

by on Saturday, March 22, 2014
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 ...
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

Shinto Shrines & Temples in Japan

by on Friday, March 21, 2014
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 s...
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

The Happy Hooker

by on Saturday, March 15, 2014
Happy Hooker; a seafood restaurant on Dundas St W, recently celebrated their one year anniversary about two weeks ago. They were serving up...
 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?

[Manga] Comic Phoenix 2014

by on Wednesday, March 12, 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..."...
About: 635 College St has seen many name changes and owners throughout the years. Sashami Island opened under new management back in November 2011, and it is an AYCE. They also have an à la carte menu and it's 20% off if you pick-up.

Atmosphere/Decor: The interior and décor hasn't changed much despite the multiple changes of owners. I don't really see anything wrong with it as I have always liked the simplicity of the interior, and how its wooden booths provide privacy for diners.

Price: The last time that I went to eat with my bf and friends (late 2013); Sashimi Island had a three-tier pricing point. The prices are as followed; #1 is $13.99 (sushi rolls), #2 is $16.99 (sushi rolls and appetizers/hot plates food), and #3 is $19.99 (everything on the menu including sashimi).

 Menu: Their menu offers the standardize sushi, sashimi and other noodles, grilled, fried options, and desserts. The price that you pay also includes pop drinks. I'd have to say that they do offer a decent selection of sushi and sashimi on the menu. The place uses the old paper system where you'd check off the items (and the amount) that you want, and then you'd give it to one of the staff members.

Food: I have been to Sashimi Island on many occasions for dinner; usually whenever I am downtown and craving for some AYCE. I find that their food quality has been quite consistent throughout all of my visits, and I liked that the portions are well-rationed. Although there are a few misses; I liked a majority of the food that are offered here. Both of the salads (green/seaweed) were both refreshing starters and I liked the tanginess of the sauce used for the green salad. Both of the miso soup and edamame taste no different than from what you'd expect from an AYCE place. They offer a wide assortment of cooked foods which I really enjoyed. Some of my favorites were the fried scallops, beef teriyaki, fried calamari, beef ribs, and sushi pizza (salmon).

Two of my favorite cooked items were probably the calamari and beef (spicy) udon. The calamari arrived with five pieces for each order and it was lightly battered with not a lot of grease. The udon here is probably one of my favorites of all of the AYCE that I have tried in the GTA. The soup base was flavorful and the udon noodles had a nice chewy texture. Their chicken teriyaki was pretty decent but it wasn't amongst the stuff that I'd re-ordered. I liked that their shrimp tempura wasn't consumed in a batter of oil and the sauce was good. Lastly, they do offer a good variety of sushi, and maki rolls, and a few choices of sashimi. On some of my earlier visits; the sushi had quite a bit of rice in the maki rolls. However, as of late, the rice to fish ratio has been pretty good and the rice was seasoned nicely. The sashimi were thickly cut, but the fish had a good texture to them.

Service: I find that good service at AYCE can be sporadic sometimes. The reason why I like this establishment is due to its friendly and fast service. The green tea refilled was frequent and the servers have always been pleasant and quick to clear the empty dishes.

Note: The photos of the food were taken from my multiple visits. I love to eat but I can't eat this much food in one seating (wished I could though hehe).



This photograph of the desserts was taken on my very first visit. The restaurant no longer offers crème brûlée as a dessert choice. However, all of the ice-cream flavors (vanilla, chocolate, red bean, mango, and green tea) are still available.

Overall, this is a pretty solid AYCE on College Street. I have always had an enjoyable dining experience here, and will likely keep coming back. 

RATINGS

Quality of Food: 4/5
Service: 4/5
Overall Dining Experience: 4/5
Price: $$

Address: 635 College St, Toronto, ON M6G 1B4

Sashimi Island on Urbanspoon

Sashimi Island

by on Tuesday, March 11, 2014
About: 635 College St has seen many name changes and owners throughout the years. Sashami Island opened under new management back in Novemb...