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DINING: New Conrad eatery offers a taste of the good life

Tastings

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Dining - A&E

Have you ever felt hopelessly unhip? Undeniably out of touch? Welcome to my world.

Given my near-constant state of cluelessness, it wasn’t a big surprise to find myself wandering around Tastings (50 W. Washington St., 423-2400) on my first visit, trying to figure out where to start. If not for the friendly server who pointed me to a table and a menu, I might still be trying to figure it out.

The wine bar, which replaced the Vitesse lounge on the first floor of the Conrad Indianapolis, isn’t your run-of-the-mill hotel bar. For one thing, it’s well lit. There’s ample outdoor seating when the weather’s right. And patrons can help themselves to the booze.

Tastings’ schtick is self-serve machines that dispense two-ounce samples of more than 100 wines. Patrons load a pre-paid card at a cash register, grab a glass and try whatever strikes their fancy—after swiping their cards, of course. Prices range from $2.50 (for vintages that run $18 per bottle) to $50 (for $375-a-bottle liquid gold).

I’m not a wine drinker, but I brought a friend who was impressed by the selection and happy with the choices she made on the low end of the spectrum.

My focus was the food. We tried three dishes from the appetizer-dominated menu. Call it tapas or bistro plates or starters, but I know appetizers when I see them.

In my experience, such small plates typically are served as they are prepared, so they often don’t arrive all at once. And I’m OK with that, since it means I’m not faced with a tableful of food that’s going to get cold before I can eat it. Our food not only arrived simultaneously—completely overwhelming the tiny table—but it also was already lukewarm. We ate it all anyway.

Our most intriguing selection was the Chicken Brie and Grape flatbread pizza ($9), which featured the signature ingredients atop a pesto-covered crispy crust along with provolone and mozzerella cheese. The pesto was a bit overwhelming, but the flavors worked well together. If anything, I wanted more grapes.

The next-most successful dish was the Filet Rosemary Skewers ($12), a half-dozen good-sized chunks of tender beef paired with roasted cherry tomatoes served shish-kabob style with a sprig of rosemary as the skewer. The herb provided a nice accent for the well-seasoned meat, and the blue cheese sauce was a nice, tangy touch. If it had arrived hot, it would have been excellent.

Our final choice: the Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs ($6). I’ve had stellar versions of this dish elsewhere, so my expectations were high. I suppose I was bound to be disappointed. Not all that big to begin with, each fruit was cut in half, wrapped in the cured meat and roasted before being topped with blue cheese and walnuts. I found them difficult to handle and a tad too small to satisfy.

Despite the uneven experience, I’ll try Tastings again—when the weather turns and I can sit outside and have a server deliver my food and drink. I’m just that old-school.•

—Andrea Muirragui Davis

__________

Last in our series of visits to downtown newcomers and reopenings. Next week: a look back at the year in dining.

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