Restaurant Review: Bar Chica – A new take on tapas￼
|Location||75 Portland Street|
|Dinner for two with drinks||$120|
When Patria made its grand entrance into Toronto’s dining scene in late 2012, city dwellers and visitors alike were treated with an elevated tapas experience in a gorgeous ambiance. Nearly a decade (and a pandemic) later, Bar Chica is the city’s freshest tapas restaurant having opened in May 2022.
The establishment is the newest vessel in the growing armada commanded by INK Entertainment Group and Scale Hospitality Group and is a partnership helmed by Toronto entertainment behemoths Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji, respectively. Located in the bustling King West neighbourhood, Bar Chica is the playful little sister of Patria.
With Bar Chica, Khabouth and Harji aim to explore new territory in the realm of Spanish cuisine—bringing a unique Toronto twist to the menu. It’s all about innovative, shareable plates, elevated cocktails and unique wines that are on offer until the wee hours of the morning.
If I hadn’t known that Bar Buca had occupied Bar Chica’s space in a previous life, I wouldn’t have known where to look. From street view, the dark glass and sign-less storefront stared back at me mysteriously. Once inside, the space was quite the contrary. It was extremely inviting with plenty of architectural and design elements that reminded me the quaint tapas restaurants in Barcelona. My eyes were drawn to the triangular wall treatment, the dimly lit booths and wide open kitchen. The smell was otherworldly—an intoxicating mix of truffle and jamon—that makes me want to order everything tout de suite.
As for the menu, it’s a compilation by Scale Hospitality Group’s corporate executive chef, Ted Corrado (The Drake), and former chef de cuisine Kevin Lee (Noma). Naturally, my guest and I whet our palates with cocktails and wine. The Te Amo ($17) was a refreshing choice, with vodka, tio pepe fino sherry, yellow chartreuse, strawberry and aloe syrup, lemon juice and angostura bitters. Logically, the wine list leaned heavily to the Old World with no shortage of Spanish varietals, such as Tempranillo, Cava, and Viura. The servers were well-versed with the food and beverage offerings for being such a new restaurant.
At Bar Chica, roughly every other dish on the menu tempted my taste buds. While there were predictable dishes to nosh on, such as Almeddras Sazonadas ($8) and Jamon Iberico de Bellota ($37), an acorn-fed ham, and Vieras Crudas ($24), there were plenty more adventurous options.
My guest and I shared four plates: Tabla de Quesos with fresh sourdough bread ($23), Patatas Bravas ($12), Croquetas de Jamon Con Trufas ($14) and Setas Fritas ($15). Of these dishes, only two were memorable: the Patatas Bravas and Croquetas de Jamon Con Trufas.
The golden croquetas, an elevated version of a ham croquette, looked like two dainty parcels that one might see at a cocktail party. Dusted with a generous heap of manchego, they were begging to be devoured. Upon sinking my teeth into the crispy exterior, they gushed with a hot, delicious black truffle béchamel—and not too overpowering, I might add (a common mistake when using black truffle).
I appreciated the artistic presentation of the Patatas Bravas as well—it was striking and vibrant on the small plate. The chef had reinvented the typical patatas bravas dish, transforming it into a duck fat potato pavé instead of fried potatoes hiding beneath sauce. The dish got more and more flavourful as it mingled with layers of parsley puree, tomato, and black garlic.
While I wouldn’t be rushing back for la nourriture alone, Bar Chica’s wonderful hospitality and stunning ambiance makes it the perfect spot to decompress over cocktails and wine with friends. A fine addition to the King West neighborhood.
Mme M. xoxo
La rubrique de Madame Marie
1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
2 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
3 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
4 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
5 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.