We would like CHIC from Barcelona to become a welcoming oasis in Dallas. We want people to think of Chic when they think of Barcelona. We want people to think of Barcelona when they think of CHIC.
Thus reads the Chic from Barcelona "vision" statement, a piece of circular thinking that could trap you in a Catalan chicken vortex if you're not wary. This vision statement supplements the Chic from Barcelona "mission" statement, which basically sings the praises of Barcelona brevity.
But you will most likely not think of Barcelona when you enter Chic from Barcelona, despite the pair of large oval institutional clocks attached to the wall in the open kitchen, one denoting Dallas time, the other time as it passes in Barcelona. What you will think of is chicks, lots of fluffy little yellow chicks with spindly legs, some standing, some tipped over. Chicks are everywhere: near the entrance, on the walls, pecking on the to-go menus, on the T-shirts and mugs that are for sale along with Chic chef's hats and aprons. The staff says "chick" too instead of the more suave "sheek." But there is a subliminal thing embedded in this wordplay—something sexual, sexist, sexy and sexed-up all at the same time. It's revealed on the restroom doors: women = chicks, men = roosters.
Let's not mince words: Chic is nothing more than half-chickens and apple wedges wading in a pool of yellow oil on a plate. The seasoning is a clandestine sauce grounded in a selection of aromatic herbs and spices that "transforms a simple chicken into an ode to good taste." The birds are marinated in the spice blend coupled with lemon and garlic before they're brushed with olive oil and white wine, impaled on a spit and tumbled and twisted on a gas-fired rotisserie before they're split and served. It's then that the only discernible components of this tightly held Barcelona secret are unveiled: curry and garlic.
The Chic menu is meticulously brief. Virtually all there is, is chicken, chicken salad and some canned tuna. And beef. But that's not important now.
What is important is that half-chicken in a puddle of oil. The top of the chicken is nicely bronzed. The meat is loose, but not so loose that it jiggles and droops like the pieces of inarticulate gore that all butchered dinner is before it's cleaved and seasoned and cooked and presented. It's firm, crisp where crispness is warranted, moist with clear juice where appropriate and void of those terrifying patches of blood-red flesh and purple vessels you sometimes find buried in the chicken back between the ribs. In short, Chic means fine rotisserie fowl.
But what's with the apple wedges? Their inclusion on the fowl plate flummoxed more than a few of our assorted Chic dining companions. You might say the apple wedge and half-chicken is the Gloria Steinem fish-and-bicycle analogy of the contemporary chicken dinner. Who needs it? Yet these apples can pedal. The skinless wedges are tart and juicy, performing a wondrous palate-cleansing mission between bites of wing and thigh—not unlike that performed by a nip of citrus sorbet between tasting menu courses. Gnaw on the bird, take a bite of the apple, and notice how it whets your receptiveness to its Barcelona secrets.
Chic is the work of Rafa Vilaclara, who carved a living in Barcelona as an international tax consultant before he made his way to Dallas with his wife, Magda, and family as a stopover on his way to India, where he planned to forge a new home. He never made it west of Irving.
Instead, Vilaclara brought a bit of Barcelona to Dallas, basing his rotisserie chicken recipe on the culinary exploits of famous Barcelona chef Tony Botella, who reintroduced traditional Barcelona rotisserie chicken to that city with a few of his own twists after it got lost in the white water of international culinary trends. Vilaclara opened Chic in a former vacuum cleaner store just shy of Mercury Grill, hoping to evangelize Dallas on the virtues of "sheek" chicken.
And Chic is very sheek. It begins with complimentary olives and toothpicks in a setting that is highly contemporary but curvaceous instead of tightly angular. White and melon-colored plastic chairs hug simple black tables holding salt and pepper grinders. High-backed banquettes are cued up against a pale yellow concave wall while blond hardwood floors lie beneath the feet.
There's a curved bar too, decorated with contemporary art, which includes a "Good Friends" mosaic inspired by the work of Spanish artists Pablo Picasso and Antonio Gaudi with interpretations by a brood of Las Colinas Elementary School fourth-graders. This mish and mash of inspirations and interpretations was constructed by Irving mosaic artist Julie Richey from unglazed ceramic, Venetian beads and orphaned glass rescued from a container bound for a Miami landfill.
The brief menu does include a few diversions—Spanish wine, for instance. The list is a tight collection of dry and sweet sherries, eight or so whites (including an Albarino), three Cavas, two rosés and 11 reds—mostly of the Tempranillo ilk plus a Garnacha, which is probably why beef is on the menu.
Beef tender Magda-style is an array of veneer-thin, rosy beef ovals tiled over the surface of a square plate. The meat shimmers with white truffle oil. The rich, lacy beef is pebbled with peppercorns.
The only other entrée is as odd as it is underachieving: canelons, or turkey-stuffed cannelloni pasta swamped in a thick béchamel sauce. Pasta is tender, turkey is fitfully underseasoned and the thick, gravy-like béchamel is cold and teetering on the edge of coagulation.
The rest of the menu is an array of sides and salads, few of them compelling. Chicken salad is a simple, unimaginative Chic derivation: just romaine topped with torn and frayed chicken from the rotisserie. Bravas are irregularly cut cubes of skinless fried potato served piping hot with a slightly crisp veneer that gives way to a moist, plush interior.
One of the strangest ensembles is the Barcelona: three large, faded and flavorless tomato slices topped with clumps of canned tuna treated with olive oil and stuffed Spanish olives.
Yet there is one element that achieves arousing chicken status: gazpacho. The classic cold Spanish soup is served in a tiny glass cylinder; it's a heady blend of tomato, onion, red peppers, cucumber, vinegar, salt and pepper plus ice shards to thicken it into smoothie genre. Shot quickly, it performs the perfect aperitif role to Barcelona rotisserie chicken, which is the entire point of Chic.
Along the dining room wall are long rows of white plates clipped to individual racks. The plates feature doodles—chicks, portraits, wildlife, body forms, swirls, that sort of thing—and sayings rendered in black marker by guests. One of them is a rough sketch of an American coin. In Chic we trust, it reads. Blasphemous chicken never tasted so sweet. 11909 Preston Road, Suite 1426, Preston Forest Square, 972-239-2442. Open 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $-$$
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