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14 West: Downtown restaurant disappoints 

click to enlarge 14 West rests downtown by Circle Centre. Photo by Hannah Fehrman.
  • 14 West rests downtown by Circle Centre. Photo by Hannah Fehrman.

The more expensive a restaurant, the more disappointing it is when it fails to live up to expectations, and a recent visit to 14 West disappointed on many levels. Once upon a time it might have been possible to make the excuse that Indianapolis is a small town and shouldn't be judged by the lofty standards of, say Chicago or San Francisco. But Indianapolis is now home to an increasingly sophisticated and educated generation of foodies and seasoned travelers, so restaurants need to hold themselves to ever-escalating levels of quality in order to be taken seriously.

Although the interior of 14 West is comfortable enough in a clubby sort of way, there's not much to distinguish it in this regard, so let's move on. The kitchen's focus, we are assured, is on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients wherever possible, prepared simply. The "award-winning" lobster macaroni and cheese (sourced, respectively, from the ocean, Italy and, I'm guessing, Wisconsin) for $15 doesn't appear to sport a single ingredient nurtured within 200 miles of the Circle City. Regardless of origins, it was a bit of a sad affair: the lobster grainy and stringy, the cheese curdled, the whole thing watery and separated.

One also has to speculate as to the origins and age of the fried green tomato(es). There was something uncannily bland about this dish and cookie-cutter in its presentation that had us wondering how long it was since the fruit had departed the vine. For $9 some flavor would have been appropriate.

And so to the main courses. One of this establishment's main attractions has to be its dry-aged beef. As any discerning diner knows, dry-aged meat is the sine-qua-non of the serious beef eater. When quizzed on the subject, our server was emphatic that the twelve-ounce, bone-in, Kansas City-style New York strip ($40) had been dry aged for 35 days. Such ageing should render the meat supremely tender and almost devoid of excess blood. Which is why it came as something of a surprise when our chosen steak required the serious attention of a serrated knife and bled so copiously onto the plate when cut that I was tempted to take its pulse and look for vital signs.

Our other dish, a delicious-looking (on paper, at least) rack of lamb for $36 had been sourced locally in Australia, transported halfway around the world then carelessly burnt on the grill to an unnecessary degree. Now I know the meaning of carbon footprint. By contrast, the quinoa upon which it rested was crunchily undercooked.

The dessert was by all accounts house-made, consisting of a flourless chocolate confection. The flavor was somewhat agreeable, but it did nothing to mitigate the experience of the rest of the meal.

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