Restaurant Review: Sip Wine Bar and Kitchen in Downtown Boston

It’s style over substance at this bustling downtown spot—and that may be by design.

restaurant review sip wine bar and kitchen

Photo by Ekaterina Smirnova

When opening a trendy restaurant, conventional wisdom holds that eclectic small plates plus flashy décor and an upbeat playlist equals instant success. That’s the formula, at least, that Sip Wine Bar and Kitchen—from the owners of casual spots like Papagayo and Max & Dylans—has followed to a T.

Given the restaurant’s location on the border of the Theater District and Downtown Crossing, the quick-bite concept is a smart bet for drawing in the area’s near-constant foot traffic of theatergoers and hungry tourists. And Sip is a fun, lively spot for a pre-show glass of wine. Here, the varietals are neatly categorized by flavor profile—spicy reds, buttery whites, and so on. They’re also offered in 10, 6, or 2 ounce pours, giving diners the option of sampling several varieties with their meal or savoring a large glass of an old favorite. The wide-ranging menu of small plates, flatbreads, and sushi rolls designed to pair with the beverage selection, however, is less satisfying.

In many cases, dishes lacked flavor, perhaps victims of a kitchen spread too thin. Soft Kobe meatballs in tomato sauce ($10), for example, were a bland rendition of the Italian standby, while overcooked polenta fries ($9) needed a bolder pairing than the lackluster mushroom crema served on the side. A larger plate of hanger steak ($22), well done and fanned out around a heap of mashed potatoes, could have been mistaken for cafeteria-style mystery meat if not for the accompanying seared greens and blue cheese “fondue” that topped the potatoes.

But the most incongruous part of the menu—sushi—shines. Spicy tuna tempura maki ($13, pictured above) and the scallop roll with torched salmon belly ($16) were fresh, balanced, and elegantly presented. The flatbreads also succeeded, particularly the crisp-crusted mushroom version with truffle oil ($13), which was loaded with creamy fontina cheese, earthy duxelles, and fresh thyme. These dishes alone are not enough to make Sip a dining destination, but they’re sure fun to nibble alongside a cocktail or a bold glass of cab. And maybe that’s all the place really needs to succeed.

571 Washington St. Boston, 617-956-0888, sipwinebarandkitchen.com.

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  • Frederick

    This mirrors our own experience when they first opened. Loved the open and airy space, was a little underwhelmed with the regular food, and blown away by the sushi and maki options. Also the service we got was head and shoulders above sibling restaurant Papagayo, and more in line with consistently solid Max & Dylan’s.