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Bar Chica — you had me at tapas

Sultry Spanish wines, bite-sized beauties, a really good looking mosaic wall — I will not stop talking about Bar Chica (or that one time I went to Barcelona). 

Bar Chica on Portland Street | Assorted tapas and cocktails

Bar Chica: What's the vibe 

Find yourself moseying south on Portland Street, and you might just miss Bar Chica. Upon first glance, its heavily frosted glass windows and industrial steel exterior remind me of a dental office — albeit a pretty one. But, beyond the unassuming front lies a restaurant bursting with colour, texture and flavours that are anything but toned down. Oversized yet delicate wicker light fixtures drip from the towering concrete ceiling and gently illuminate Spanish design moments like the highly attractive, handmade terracotta mosaic focal wall.

Bar Chica on Portland Street | Inside the sultry Spanish tapas bar

Bar Chica: What's on the menu

When I wasn’t gawking over the warm surroundings, I was face-first in tapas, which kept flowing out of the open kitchen until we slumped in our seats, ready for a siesta. The savoury dishes range from clever takes on classic Barcelona tapas like patatas bravas — duck fat potato pavé painted with a triple- threat purée of black garlic, tomato and parsley — to larger masterpieces, including the Trucha con Pan, where the underrated trout gets a glow-up in a brilliant mojo rojo (red sauce) spattered with scallion oil and briny pickled pearl onions.

Our steak tartare was... Green — from a ramp emulsion. I prefer my tartar de carne a little more naked, but, nevertheless, I left nothing on the plate. 

My favourite: Vieiras Crudas, a scallop crudo tucked under a hockey puck of green melon floating in a coconut leche de tigre and serrano-oil broth. It was invigorating and viscous — and, like Bar Chica itself, nothing you could predict.

Bar Chica: What else

No, that's not the percussive clack-clack-clack of flamenco castanets — that is the sound of my Mucho Gusto cocktail being shaken up, a sound that has me salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs. The pepper-infused tequila, watermelon syrup and lemon juice tipple (with mezcal if you like things a little smoky) is one of the many chuggable drinks at Bar Chica. I could pass on its dried flower rim, but I want what's inside the glass all summer long.

The drool-worthy tapas and locally commissioned artwork aren’t Bar Chica’s only impressive collections. Their extensive wine list is a diverse index of elegant, zingy whites and juicy bright reds carefully selected from all across Spain's top wine-producing regions. We could have happily sipped all night on a bright, intriguing and minerally Spanish Albariño, which was practically shining on the table.

Dinner and drinks for two: around $250

75 Portland St., barchicatoronto.com

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