You can learn a lot about SIN from their tableside cacio e pepe service. When you put in your order, which costs a minimum of $30, a dedicated server pulls over a cheese wheel on a trolly while maintaining the expression of someone who understandably would rather be anywhere else. You'll oooh and ahh at the prospect of a show. This is the restaurant’s “vibe dining" they promise on their website, right before your eyes. Silently, the server pours liquor into the wheel and torches the pile of spaghetti and pecorino romano until the combination becomes molten, but, as you’ll soon learn, not long enough for the alcohol to cook out. It’s a somber performance, like a viking funeral for pasta instead of a cheesy celebration. When the flames die down, it might dawn on you to clap or maybe just apologize: to the server who has to repeat this gimmick throughout the night, to yourself for eating here, and to Philadelphians at large, who deserve better than boozy pasta.
This is SIN in a nutshell. Not the kind of sin that god will forgive you for—it’s not even that fun or unhinged. The Northern Liberties clubstaurant, which stands for steak, Italian, nightlife, draws on Miami, Las Vegas, and New York for inspiration, mostly by lighting food on fire and hiring a DJ on weekends. In reality, SIN is just a boring restaurant that wishes it were anywhere but Philly. After the sparklers fade and the Rihanna song transitions to baby-making music, all you’re left with is a $200 meal at a place that doesn’t deliver on any part of its name.
SIN does serve dishes other than the drunken cacio e pepe, all of which try to stunt despite being poorly cooked and bland. Balsamic reductions and olive oil drizzles do nothing more than show off the chef’s penmanship, and citrus crumbles in the linguine can’t save rubber-tough shrimp. The food is all flair and visuals. There’s a $72 veal chop with champagne vinaigrette to go along with oysters served with those tiny, impossible-to-open Tabasco bottles, and some burrata-topped chicken parm that’s too pink for comfort on the inside.
While you may think a drink will save you from a pecorino and black pepper sauce that tastes like freshman year vodka, it can’t. The cocktails are somehow worse—a choose-your-own-hellscape of Old Fashioneds topped with jolting cocoa dust or vodka with strawberry puree and a graham cracker rim that mixes into a cereal paste in your mouth.
It’d be almost forgivable—maybe even charming in a backwards way—if SIN served upsetting lobster risotto and drinks and the scene was enjoyably chaotic. Instead, black walls, black tiling, and black leather seats give the impression that you’ve stumbled into a Dracula support group. Everyone inside, from the servers to the Housewives of Rivers Casino crowd, looks around to see if anyone else has figured out how to manufacture fun beyond the simple act of wearing a mink coat. The volume of the dining room only spikes when someone shoots a video to convince their timeline that they're somewhere exciting. For a restaurant that claims to be about “vibe dining,” SIN has a surprising lack of energy.
When the bill comes, you’ll think, Did I just drop a few hundred to partake in Italian steakhouse masochism with no reward? What you’ve paid for is a hard truth. SIN is what happens when Philly loses sight of what makes our dining scene great: authenticity. The restaurant doesn't go hard enough in any direction—steak, Italian, nightlife, or otherwise. Sure, enough cash from investors can turn the first floor of a new-build apartment complex into a counterfeit impersonation of an upscale Vegas lounge. But money can’t camouflage mediocrity.
If you end up here without your consent, stick to wine and beer. The cocktails are jumpscares. Take the bizarre pistachio martini made with vanilla vodka, Disaronno, Bailey’s, and blue curacao and a graham cracker rim. There’s no consideration for the blending of these ingredients. The mixture starts to separate after about a minute.
The steak options here are pretty standard—filet mignon, a New York strip, ribeye, and tomahawk—but small for the prices. There are a couple of sauce options, like bearnaise, au poivre, and gorgonzola fondue. While these aren’t the worst things on the menu (that’s up next), they lack precision in execution like everything else here. You might get a steak that's not cooked evenly or one that’s underseasoned. And for a place with “steak” in its name, that’s a huge miss.
Cacio e Pepe
We’re not going metaphors here. To put it simply, this is the worst pasta we’ve ever had. It comes with a whole tableside show, including a giant wheel of pecorino, the grinding of fresh pepper, and a small cup of alcohol to stoke the flames. But the sauce doesn’t reduce, and that’s why you get roundhouse kicked in the face with a pungent and smoky glob of boozy noodles. You’ll want to chug the closest thing to you in order to erase the memory of this thing, maybe even the candle.
Chicken parmigiana, the SIN way, is frisbee flat and, once, was a little too pink in the center. The sweet pomodoro sauce is a close relative of something you'd buy in a bottle at the market. So that means it’s not a tangy disaster, but the flavors also don't stand out.
Whole Grilled Branzino
Again, if you’re dragged here against your will, this is the main to try and cross your fingers. Branzino filets are simply grilled and then topped with kale pesto. The plate comes with a grilled lemon, which has a little char on it while still maintaining its juiciness.