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Thursday, April 8, 2010

PS7's

Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #66, Washingtonian 2009 #69, Washingtonian 2008 #55, Washington City Paper's Young and Hungry's 2009 Top 50 Restaurants
Neighborhood: Gallery Place - Chinatown

The Setup

After our dinner at Ping Pong Dim Sum, Official Friend of DCWD Olive wanted in on more DCWD dinners. So I told her that CC and I were planning a trip to PS7's for Happy Hour. So we planned on that, until of course the day came around and Olive didn't show, so CC and I plopped down at the bar, and had ourselves a drinks and dinner friend date.

The Vibe

PS7's and I have a rich history. It was the first even remotely upscale restaurant that I'd taken someone out to, in this case a now ex-girlfriend my junior year of college (I'm a late bloomer to the restaurant side of foodie-ism, mostly due to collegiate poverty). So I do have a lot of positive memories of the place which certainly helps. The actual place helps too.

There's a pretty sizable bar area to your right when you enter, black, orange, and dark blue, with some lounge seating and eight or so seats around a crackled orange tile bar. The whole motif of the bar area is waves and curved lines, which is in stark contrast to the dining area, to your left as you enter, which has angular straight lines. With mostly full-length windows, the dining area is split into two levels of seating alternating between some two and four-tops and booths. The whole room is electric blue, brown, and white and is generally a modern decor, something that is epitomized by the fishbowls with live goldfish in the black brick walls of the bathroom (!). Other than that disconcerting fact though, it's a generally very nice and romantic place.

The Food

Reason #1 that we wanted to hit up PS7's is Gina Chersevani. The house mixologist, her drinks are some of the best in the city (vying only probably with The Passenger's Derek Brown and Todd Thrasher of Restaurant Eve/PX). Put it this way, Mike Isabella (of Zaytinya, and of course, Top Chef) stopped by to have some snacks and drinks at the bar. Which was our plan of attack.

We ordered so many of Gina's delicious drinks that it only feels right to talk about them each as if they were a dish. For our first round, I got the Sun and Sand (Brugal rum, fresh orange, and vanilla in a glass crusted with a root beer sugar), and CC got one of Gina's famous housemade punches (this one was Absolut, Campari, pear, rosebud tea, honey, and cinnamon). Mine was a small portion, but I swear I wanted to lick all the root beer crust off the glass; as you drank it, it melted into the drink and was wonderfully sweet. CC's was nicely mild, with the cinnamon coming in as a nice aftertaste.

For round two, I was tempted into sampling Gina's creation for Artini, the competition where mixologists from around the District take inspiration from an exhibit at the Corcoran to fashion their cocktails. Gina's was called First Position, taken from one of Degas' numerous paintings of ballerinas, and made from Plymouth gin, Pernod absinthe, and topped with absinthe fairy floss (an absinthe cotton candy). The cotton candy made for a perfect sweet touchstone next to the absinthe's bitterness, and it was a pretty solid drink. As for CC, she got the Recession Blues "The Cure," the least expensive drink on the menu, made from Miller High Life, Domaine de Canton (a ginger liqueur), and ginger. I actually liked hers better. Delicious.

At this point, we were ready to call it quits, until I mentioned to Gina that she had made me one of my all-time favorite mixed drinks, at the DC International Wine and Food Festival. Her response, "Oh, I'll make it for you."

Yes.

So for round three she made me the aforementioned citrus smash (gin, Domaine de Canton, ginger, cinnamon, and grapefruit). This time it was a little less cinnamon-y, a little more ginger-y, which was a little bit of a downgrade from the first time, but still very nice. For CC's part, she ordered the Gnome's Water (which we featured before). Amazing.

Oh right, we ate too. As for the food, we went with two appetizers and two entrees off the bar menu. My choice for appetizer was the oxtail tots: oxtail croquettes with hazelnuts and parmesan in an oxtail gravy. I love oxtail, even if others think it's a little gamey or stringy. These were crisp and light. Still both of us were excited for CC's choice: the angel wings, boneless wings stuffed with lamb sausage in a preserved peach gastrique. Unfortunately, the first batch came out way undercooked (like raw in the center), which kind of gave us a bad taste for it, even though the second batch came out alright. Both of us also wished there was more of the gastrique, which was light and sweet.

For the entrees, we went with the buzzed burger, a coffee crusted burger with balsamic roasted onions, wild mushrooms, and Bell's Porter butter, and the housemade Chicago dogs. The dogs were nice, with the horseradish mustard they were served with really kicking you in the face when you ate it. Otherwise a pretty solid dish. The burger was similarly nice, with the coffee providing a great taste.

Somehow CC talked me into dessert, and we got two chocolate covered cheesecake lollipops, with some gold flake on them. These were a really pleasant way to end the meal.

The Verdict

I love the vibe at PS7's. It's hip and its decor is clean (though having never seen the fishbowls in the bathroom before, maybe I should take that back). As for the food, it was solid, but the real treat was the cocktails, which I think bump it up a whole star. Having gone there now both on a precocious date night, and laid back happy hour with a friend, I can say it's pretty versatile and a great date choice.

Food Rating: **** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 3.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual to Smart Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd to Suits Scene
Vibe: Chatty
Cost:
$$$
(out of 5) ($50-$75 for two)
Pairing: The time I went to PS7's on date night, we went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, so that's what we'll go with here. I personally love the permanent exhibits, and it's one of my favorite Smithsonians.

PS7's on Urbanspoon

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