New Restaurants: The Vanderbilt, Bill's Burger, Corsino, Giano

<p>At last night's opening party for <a href="">The Vanderbilt</a>, someone wondered, Is this supposed to be a bar that serves food or a restaurant with a bar? Depending on what you're in the mood for, The Vanderbilt could be either. The new Prospect Heights venture from <a href="">chef Saul Bolton</a>, whose decade-old Boerum Hill restaurant Saul just got a rave re-review <a href="">by the Times</a>, seems poised to draw drinkers craving small plates and serious gourmands, because Bolton is a serious chef. </p><p></p>The long front room is distinguished by the bar on one side and banquettes with high top tables on the other side, but the focal point is the mostly open kitchen and marble chef's counter. The front is all exposed brick, but the romantically-lit room in back is lined with reclaimed barn wood walls. It feels like a labor of love, and you can read about Bolton and co-owner Ben Daitz's process getting it ready for the opening <a href="">here</a>. <p></p>The small-plates menu ranges in price from $4 to $16, along with a selection of cheeses, charcuterie, and desserts—all made in-house. (They also make their own Ginger Beer!) Options include a Grilled Pork Chop with Parisian gnocchi ($16); Grilled Spanish Octopus with cranberry beans, lemon, olive oil ($9); and Poached Duck Eggs fontina toast ($11). The bar is pouring over 20 artisanal brews, including Ommegang Abbey Ale and, on tap, Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter. Besides wine, there are excellent specialty cocktails ($9) like the bold Glyda Rose (gin, campari, blood orange, champagne). <p></p><em>570 Vanderbilt Avenue, (718) 623-0570</em>

<a href="">We called it:</a> New York is heralding the return of the basic burger. And though we're sad to see the Hog Pit go, <a href="">Bill's Bar and Burger</a> seems like a fitting replacement. Darkly adorned with pressed tin and exposed brick, Bill's is not trying to reinvent the burger experience, they're just trying to make it as good as possible. The menu is filled with good, basic burgers, such as the "Fat Cat," a beef burger with caramelized onions on an english muffin, or the "Bobcat," topped with green chiles and jack cheese. <p></p>We decided to go with the Bill's classic cheeseburger. The patty was flavorful, with a perfect outer crust that only comes from a grill covered with delicious fat. It didn't need ketchup, but the lettuce and tomato were fresh and added some nice crunch. The fries were hand-cut with the skin on and had the right amount of crisp, but lost most of their flavor as soon as they began to cool. Bill's Chili Cheese Dog lacked flavor as well, mostly because it wasn't topped with chili so much as pulled beef in BBQ sauce, but the dog itself was good (reminiscent of Nathan's or Gray's,) and the Texas toast it was served on was nice and fluffy.<p></p>The shakes are the other main draw, and do not disappoint. Though they were out of the Vermont shake (vanilla with blueberries and maple syrup), the classic Vanilla shake is light but powerful. It's not so thick that it gets stuck in the straw on the way up, but fresh vanilla and homemade whipped cream give it substance. The "Peanut Butter Banana Fluff" shake also incorporates real chunks of peanut butter and bananas, but never sticks to the roof of your mouth. Getting that shake with a shot of bourbon in it is a popular serving suggestion. The beer is plentiful, the setting is warm, and sticking to the burgers and shakes will leave you nice and full. However, if you're still hungry you can always head to <a href="">675 Bar</a> next door for some chocolate covered bacon. Yes, we're serious.—<em>Jaya Saxena</em><p></p><em>22 9th Avenue, 212-414-3003</em>

<p>Craving crostini? West village newcomer <a href="">Corsino</a>, from the guys behind 'inoteca, has got you covered. The casual Italian small-plates den offers an atmosphere that's at once homey and modern, with dark wood walls, slate counters and red candles to set the mood, and food that's adventurous but comforting. The crostini menu offers 18 types of the classic Italian appetizer, which go for $2.50 a plate. Flavor combinations like ricotta and orange honey and preserved eggplant and mint stand out along the standard olive tapenade. Fresh-made pasta ranges from $12-$16, including a tagliatelle with lamb ragu. Meat dishes range around the same price, with classics like the brisket meatballs with tomato and pecorino or pork osso buco. UrbanDaddy has a <a href="">menu.</a> —<em>Jaya Saxena<p></p>637 Hudson St, (212) 242-3093</em></p>

<p>The authentic and adventurous Italian restaurant <a href="">Giano</a> isn't new (it opened about a year ago) but it deserves some more exposure, especially since the arrival of new chef Matteo Calciati. Owners Matteo Niccoli and Paolo Rossi, both Milanese transplants, named the place Giano after the Roman deity with two faces: one looking toward the past and another toward the future. The elegant interior design reflects that concept, with one half of the restaurant affecting a rustic vibe with exposed brick and dark wood, and the other half comprised of a contemporary wine bar made from 145 pounds of compressed sea salt.</p><p></p>The menu is similarly bifurcated, with one half looking to the past with more traditional dishes such as the Insalata di Polipo alla Genovese, a warm octopus and potato salad served with tomatoes, black olives and arugula, dressed with a delicate and aromatic lemon vinaigrette ($11.95). On the menu's "facing the future" side, there's a delicous appetizer of Melanzana Alla Parmigiana in Sfoglia—a twist on eggplant parmigiana where eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil are layered and wrapped in a flaky, crackly puff pastry shell ($8.95). <p></p>Giando's signature pasta is the stellar house-made Tagliolini with cured fish roe and black truffle ($15.95). It's portioned so that you can still have room for secondi such as the Braised Pork Shank marinated with red wine and topped in a sweet and savory sauce of cinnamon, coriander, and star anise. But whatever you try, don't walk away without the mint-infused Panna Cotta. Peruse <a href="">the full menu here</a>, including the wine list, which prices most glasses in the $10 range.<p></p><em>126 East 7th Street; (212) 673-7200</em>