On the menu at Bar Chica, a new cuisine on King West for Toronto-style tapas

On the menu at Bar Chica, a new cuisine on King West for Toronto-style tapas

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Name: chica bar
Contact: 75 Portland St., 416-479-9779, barchicatoronto.com, @barchicatoronto
Piece: King West
Previously: Bar Buca
Owner: Scale Hospitality Group (Shook, Lapinou) and INK Entertainment (Amal, Akira Back)
Chief: Business executive Ted Corrado (The Drake) and chef Kevin Lee (Noma)
Accessibility: Fully Accessible

The food

Those looking to escape to Barcelona even for one night, Chica is not your ticket. This is Toronto tapas: dishes rooted in Spanish tradition but reworked with Ontario ingredients and a predilection for flavors from around the world. So if you’re looking to get away from it all and eat your way from playful plates that don’t respect any food coloring book, this is the place. “Since we own Patria down the street, I wanted there to be a real distinction between the two Spanish restaurants,” says Hanif Harji, founder of Scale Hospitality Group. “While Patria does classic, traditional large format, Chica’s small plates aren’t strictly Spanish – they’re innovative, technique-focused and fun.”

Chica’s patatas bravas distill the restaurant’s culinary philosophy into four bites. The pressed potatoes in duck fat are topped with a quail egg hidden under three purées: black garlic, burnt tomato and parsley and a garlic confit aioli. $12.
It’s an ode to corn. Every part of the ear is used to create this plate. The smoked kernels (cooked with soppressata) are covered with a corn mousse made from the cob). This same foam is then dehydrated and transformed into chips. The husk is then roasted and turned into powdered ash used to garnish the plate. $15.
These savory cream puffs topped with sea urchins are filled with a plain honey mousse enriched with paprika. $16.
Tostas con sardinas (sardine toast) shows the cuisine’s affinity for Ontario’s seasonal bounty. Instead of using imported boquerones, Chica makes their own by drying sardines in Spanish olive oil and homemade ramp vinegar for 14 days. A healthy schmear of Ontario Cultured Butter, crisp sourdough, garlic aioli, thin strips of marinated ramps, a sardine fillet and a few nasturtium leaves to finish. $18.
This tasty foie gras parfait pie is garnished with a Spanish sherry jelly. $19.
For this dish, the thinly cut Iberian pork shoulder is breaded and fried. It is then garnished with mojo verde, fried marinated mushrooms, field arugula, grated manchego and caramelized onions. $28.
This arroz negro starts with bomba rice cooked in squid ink. It is then topped with squid grilled over binchō-tan (Japanese charcoal). Puffed rice, Spanish olive oil and a parsley emulsion complete the dish. $19.
This olive oil chocolate cake, served with brown butter ice cream, tastes like what happens when a Deep’n Delicious cake goes on exchange to Spain and comes home with a new mysterious accent. $14.
Chief Corrado
The drinks

There’s an equal emphasis on wine and cocktails at Chica. Oenophiles will revel in the depth of the Spanish bottles on offer. They carry all the expected varieties (tempranillo, garnacha) as well as some less common ones (bobal, listán negro, albariño, hondarrabi zuri). Although the focus is on lesser-known Spanish producers, the selection is complemented by a handful of French and Germanic options. Bottles start at $60.

Imagine the marriage of a G&T and a classic gimlet and you’ll get closer to this Armada. Made with Tanqueray gin, lime juice, lemongrass syrup and tonic bitters, this is an easy drinking tart. $16.
Named after Spain’s beautiful mountain town Ronda, the Ronda Sour is also a collision of two armbands: a New York Sour meets kalimotxo (a traditional Spanish blend of red wine and cola). It’s a mix of Bulleit Rye, homemade cola syrup, lemon juice, orange bitters, red wine and egg white. The result is velvety and balanced. $17.
Benidorm is a riff on a Red Hook. It starts with eight-year-old Bacardi rum infused with Iberian ham fat. The rum is then mixed with Dolin sweet vermouth, Luxardo Maraschino and garnished with a cherry. $20.
Space

“We consider Chica to be Patria’s hip younger sister. More adventurous, fun… she stays out later,” says Harji. Designer Danielle Adams (Toronto Beach Club) was commissioned to create a space that was both elegant and relaxed. She achieved this by tearing up the coffee bar out front and transforming the room into a fully upscale dining room.

This triptych by Montreal artist SylT, a visual reference to the three vaguely religious portraits of masked women that adorn the walls of Patria, inspired the color palette of the 60-seat restaurant.
Rustic elements like these terracotta tiles from Toronto’s Black Rock Studio and terrazzo floors were paired with sleek furnishings like marble-encrusted walnut tables.

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