One of the most satisfying things to watch this year has been chef Peter Smith’s evolution at PS 7’s. The Chinatown haunt was once committed to a concept so complex that the average diner couldn’t even grasp it. These days, Smith’s menus are as playful as they are creative and technical. His lunch/bar menus, for instance, feature four different hamburgers (one encrusted in coffee), as if the place were an upscale offshoot of Good Stuff Eatery. Smith also makes his own Chicago hot dogs, links and all, so fresh and flavorful you may never go back to Vienna beef. And what’s this, duck pho on the dinner menu? With noodles, sprouts, Thai basil, and foie gras? Just a whole new take on the Vietnamese soup. It’s hard to say how much influence the city’s most huggable mixologist, Gina Chersevani, has had on Smith’s move to the lighter side, but I do know this: Chef and bartender work magnificently together. Smith helps create mixes and garnishes for Chersevani, and in return she creates cocktails that complement the chef’s cooking. I’m thinking specifically about her Gnome’s Water, which combines Hendrick’s gin, cucumber water, lemon, and lavender syrup. It goes down like lemonade in summer but with an added benefit: that glorious buzz that seems to make everything taste better.

777 I St. NW (202) 742-8550